by Luke Otley
I have recently been insured on my father’s car, a 1.8 litre Fiat. It is a strange sensation, having such a heavy beast under the harness, when one has been accustomed to being powerless for such a long, long time. A light touch on the throttle will see it jump and growl… ride the gears up quickly into fourth…coast smoothly through the turns…
Which is all easy enough; but hazard strikes! I find myself approaching a three lane roundabout, squinting at a road sign almost entirely hidden behind a tree, a cyclist in front of me and mean saloons boxing me in from all angles. The traffic is loud, and time is running out. I am cascading towards the roundabout in fifth gear, and the cyclist is only thirty feet in front. My diabetic sister is in the back seat singing the theme song from Sooty and Sweep. The mirrors are filled with giant cackling beamers, each manned by a distant son of Charon, and suddenly the Fiat doesn’t seem so beastly. It whimpers and falters and whines.
“Sod it” I say, and hit the brakes. I am already half way onto the roundabout and a Mazda bears down on me from the right. I put my hand up in apology and scream off in low gear, drifting wildly in the complete wrong lane.
Driving can be stressful, for those without practice, and I was lucky the owner of that Mazda wasn’t in an ugly mood. It would have been too easy for him, had he just come from a divorce signing or a disciplinary hearing, to narrow his eyes and ease off the breaks…
I was at fault, and a healthy dose of paralysis would have taught me a lesson I’d never forget. But riding on impulse is a dangerous game, and there’s no guarantee the jury will vote in your favour. A warning blast of the horn will do, then wail off with your middle finger out the window – your wake will be littered with the splintered bones of less proficient drivers, you have my word on that.