Ah, the motorway service station. A British institution if ever there was one. They are nobody’s destination but still, usually thanks to our bladders, on long car journeys many of us can be found prying ourselves out of our vehicles and lumbering into these soulless strip-lighted bastions of aggressive capitalism like Zombies, ready to pay massively inflated prices for, well, everything… like the mugs we are.
Next time you find yourself at a Welcome Break or a RoadChef, take a look around. They’re great places to do a bit of people watching. You may just spot some of this lot:
I know what you’re thinking; I’ve been quiet this month. Has the fire gone? Will we be getting positive, life-affirming lists from now? Will you fuck! I’ve just been taking some time to focus on the novel what I am writing, that’s all.
Here’s a short one to ease you back in.
I may be 300 miles away at the moment, but London’s transport system was the first thing I was glad to see the back of when I left.
More of the delightful people that might be one of your next travelling companions:
The school kid
Anonymous on their own, get a few together and they become the definition of obnoxious. Like the DJ, groups of males will play shit music through their crappy phone’s speakers and punctuate every second word with ‘fucking’. Groups of females will alternate between all trying to talk at the same time and trying to sing like Mariah Carey or harmonising.
They could be drunk, but if they’re in a suit then they could just have a ‘really fucking important’ job and be genuinely knackered. Some people will not go without a struggle, nodding themselves awake with every jolt or bump, checking they haven’t missed their stop then dropping back into their epic battle. Others just go with it, dribble and all. All of them share one thing though; that look of panic upon first waking up.
This person doesn’t really understand physics. All they know is, they want to get off the bus/train/tube and you are between them and door. The other twenty people in front of you waiting their turn to disembark are irrelevant; they want to get off now! If the invasion of your personal space isn’t enough, then they will proceed to shove you in your back to make their point further.
This is when you may break all the rules of travelling in London by making eye-contact with and talking to someone you don’t know (you turn around and tell them to ‘fuck off’).
A rare sight on trains and tubes these days thanks to super high fares, you can still spot them every now and then, usually late at night. Yes, they still ask for money, but some now do it in a more enterprising way. One fella on a train from Victoria with me a few years ago declared to the full carriage,
‘Yes I’m a tramp, but don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you for any spare change.’
After a collective sigh of relief, he continued, ‘But can someone lend me fifty quid till Tuesday?’
I’ve spent this past week journeying my way around this illustrious country’s capital city, giving me plenty of time to observe those who frequent trains, trams, buses and the Tube in and around good ol’ London town.
The anally-retentive Usually male (but not exclusively), these are the sad cases that feel their vehicle is an extension of their personality. This is the type of person that would wash their car in the middle of winter, even after a particularly heavy snow fall. They are generally pretty well groomed themselves, so arguably their car does reflect their character; nice to look at but essentially the same as the thousands of others you can find pretty much anywhere… Yep.
The bus driver If you were in control of a vehicle that weighed multiple tonnes and you were relied on by many to get them places safely, you’d probably take care over your driving, wouldn’t you? Yeah, well- you’d never make it as a bus driver. If they thought they could get away with hand brake turns, they’d make them on every corner. Never run for a bus- the drivers appear to be able to sense when a sprinting person is approaching the closed doors and are therefore able to choose the optimum moment to pull away. Which they will. Every fucking time.
The Highway Code denier Whether it is their refusal to drive above 60 mph on a dual carriageway, their confusion over the right of way at a roundabout or their general refusal to take note of road signs, markings and pedestrian crossings, it is evident that this person has either never seen a copy of The Highway Code or believes that the rules are open to individual interpretation. In many ways they are similar to The kamikaze, although unlike them, this driver is oblivious to their lack of knowledge. It is an utterly petrifying experience to be a passenger in this person’s car, particularly if you have a driving license yourself- you will find yourself applying an imaginary brake in the footwell every time you think they should be. Which is constantly. Foot-ache is a given by the end of the journey.
The kid on a moped These are pack animals, rarely found on their own. You can always hear them before you see them, thanks to their customised racing exhausts and bore kits- the sound resembles an approaching swarm of angry bees. You can tell a serious rider- they’re the ones that lean close to the handlebars to maximise their aerodynamics… On a 50cc moped. While decked out in full motorcycling regalia… On a 50cc moped. The best analogy is to think of them as a low level Pokemon- upon receiving their full driving license, they will evolve into either The arsehole(eon), The anally-retentive(eon), The boy-racer(eon) or a terrifying mix of all three(eon).
I realise not all of you will get that last bit, but fuck it- totally worth it.
You can split new drivers into two categories: The timid and The reckless.
The timid simply need some support and as more experienced road users, we are the ones to offer it. If they are taking rather a long time to perform a turn or parallel park at the side of the road, for example, offer some gentle encouragement with a few short-sharp horn blasts. If they are driving a little too slowly for your liking, simply inform them by tailgating them for a mile or two then performing a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, preferably on a blind corner. Remember to always ‘cut them up’ after passing.
The reckless drives a £50 car and knows it. Within weeks they evolve into The Kamikaze. If you’re lucky, they will have ‘P’ plates on their car, the ‘P’ standing for ‘Probably best you keep your distance.’
Apparently this person doesn’t realise their car has more than two gears. Or maybe they think they’re driving a tractor. Either way, if you’re in a rush to get somewhere, nine times out of ten this is who will be in front of you. They also tend be:
The slightest bend in the road? BRAKE! Speed hump? BRAKE! Car coming in the opposite direction? BRAKE! Driving down a tiny incline? FOR GOD’S SAKE, BRAKE!!!!!
The twat and his horn
You always get one in a traffic jam, usually in an expensive German car (funny that…). They seem to think their horn contains magical powers and repeated use will somehow clear whatever it is that is causing the hold up. All it really does is inform everyone else that there is a self-important fuck-tard in the shiny motor…
I know- not technically a driver, but a fucking menace on the roads nonetheless. Again, they can be sub-categorised: The hardcore and The novice
The hardcore: In their mind they’re Lance Armstrong. In reality they’re Barry from Accounting. Clad in spandex (always a good look), these are the self-righteous arseholes who bang on your car if they feel an injustice has been inflicted upon them… which is always, of course.
The novice: Seemingly not familiar with the rules of the road, this cyclist seems intent on dying today. Whether it is by weaving in and out of parked cars like a game of peek-a-boo-Russian-Roulette or just wobbling into passing traffic, they will be leaving their mark on the world today and that mark will be on your bonnet and possibly your windscreen too.
If you drive, and indeed if you don’t but have eyes and have travelled in a motor vehicle of some description, then you’re probably aware of certain characteristics particular drivers exhibit.
The indicator denier
Often found on (but not exclusive to) motorways, usually in expensive German cars (not wanting to name brands but most culprits tend to drive a make that begins with B and rhymes with key-phlegm-wobble-through). By changing lanes or making turns without prior warning, this tireless community servant aims to ensure that other road users remain alert and on their toes at all times. We salute you.
Often found on (but not exclusive to) motorways, usually in expensive German cars (can you see a trend forming here?) or 4x4s. The usual trick is to come tearing up behind you like they’re being chased in an effort to scare you into moving out of the way. If that fails, they will flash their headlights in the vain hope that they will induce an epileptic fit which will cause you to lose control of your vehicle and free up the lane. Just let them have their fun, it’s probably the only time they ever get to exert their masculinity.
Quick question: If you owned a shitty little car (a Saxo or Corsa, for instance) and had saved up a couple of grand to jazz it up, what would you buy?
If you answered ‘a better car‘, then congratulations, you’re not a boy-racer.
If you answered ‘seventeen inch rims, a plastic body kit, a massive spoiler and a huge sound system‘, then I’m afraid you are destined for a life of sitting in car parks at night, boring motor-talk and hairdresser girlfriends. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course…)
For this driver, arrival at their destination is usually due to luck rather than skill or competence. Like The indicator denier, this person drives on faith rather than eyesight and judgement, relying on the perception and reaction time of other road users in order to get to places.
You could say that their driving style is aggressive with a touch of ‘fuck it’.