Driving to relax? As if!

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Getting behind the wheel can be quite a traumatic experience, writes RANI JHALA

My friend and I got our driving licences on the same day. She gave up driving two years later, after getting seriously injured in a car crash.  It was not her fault, but she paid the price.  The other driver was charged with the classic offences – driving under the influence, driving an unregistered car and driving without a licence.

Nine years later I am still driving, but I am only just holding on to my sanity.  Why is it that we go berserk as soon as we get behind the wheel? Our calm and friendly nature is overridden by this aggressive and challenging persona.  I do not ordinarily swear, yet behind the wheel, out they flow.

In order to understand this negative change in me, I began to keep a journal. This is only from last week’s entry:

Monday: I was driving behind what I now call ‘the fifty drivers’. There I was cruising along the road that had a 70kph limit and suddenly I found myself directly behind a white car moving at 50kph. As I exited the road, I was forced to remain behind him.  Unfortunately he took the same exit as well.  We were now in a 60kph zone but my ‘fellow traveller’ continued in a one-lane road, maintaining the same speed. Three kilometres later, we went through a school zone.  And to my utter surprise, the driver continued at 50kph in the 40kph zone.  I had to smile as he sped away from me. How far would he go? After all, a 60 zone was coming up again!

Tuesday: I was in the kerbside lane, directly behind a ute. Seeing the ‘merge lane’ sign coming up, I moved into the right lane and still remaining under the speed limit, drove past him. The next minute, I heard a roar as the driver of the ute sped past me and cut in, totally oblivious to the fact that since his lane was ending; he should have waited and merged when it was safe. And then to my utter horror he had the audacity to lift his middle finger.  I had to smile when just fifteen minutes later I drove past him, standing by the roadside changing the front tyre of his car. I refrained from returning the salute as I drove past, but I did let out a quiet ‘Idiot!’

Wednesday: Today I incurred the exuberance of a young driver who appeared to be taking his girlfriend for a run in his new car. They were right in front of me and I watched as he played with her hair and turned every few seconds to look at her. When this continued for a few minutes I turned to my daughter and prophesied an accident. Sure enough, just minutes later the teenager had run into the car in front of him and caused a multiple pile-up.  Since there was major damage to all cars, several of us were asked to act as witnesses. We learnt that the teenager had just got his P-plate, but was driving without displaying it. The car was registered under his mother’s name and some ten minutes later, she came to collect her child.  As his mother drove up, I noted that the teenager had moved away from his girlfriend. I had to smile as I thought, ‘Had you done that in the first place, this would not have happened’.

Thursday: The ‘texters’ are the real patience testers. If only I had a dollar for every time I missed the lights because the person in front of me was texting. Today it was not a ‘texter’ that tested my patience, but the man driving alongside me, reading a newspaper which was folded across his steering wheel. Somehow he successfully navigated himself for a good five minutes before he put the paper aside and lit a cigarette.  I had to smile as we drove past a fast-food outlet and he turned into it. ‘Oh Lord! Now he would juggle his breakfast and coffee as well. The stupid fool!’

Friday: Another jaywalker cut in front of me today. One minute she was standing on the median strip and the next minute she had stepped out in front of the car. Had the car not responded immediately to my foot as it slammed on the brake, the woman would have either been on top of bonnet or beneath the wheel of my car. There was no apology or even a smile. Calmly she continued her walk across a three-lane highway, ignoring the abuse from other drivers. This was a bit scary, but people walking off the kerb before your car has had the chance to go past, is a common occurrence. I would smile at their stupidity if they did not put the lives of the drivers at risk.

Saturday: This morning I rushed around dropping the kids to their respective sport venues. Not one of the venues had sufficient parking, so I dropped off the kids at the main entrance. While I waited for my last child to text back that she had met up with her group, I watched in utter amazement as two parents fought for the one parking spot that was becoming available. I had to smile when a third car, reversed in from the other side and took the spot, leaving the first two parents gaping in astonishment. I stopped smiling when I remembered the many times someone had taken my spot by rushing past me as I waited with my indicator on.

Sunday: I handed over the driving to my husband and decided that I would finally enjoy a relaxing drive. We went shopping and returned to find that our car had been dented. From the angle of the damage, it appeared to have been marked by a shopping trolley. No notes and no witnesses. The shopping centre assured us that they would look at the security camera footage and see if the incident had been recorded. Without that proof we are now looking at having to pay the excess on our claim, on top of the inconvenience of having to give our car for repairs.  Initially upset, I had to finally smile as I thought, put a person behind a wheel and they go crazy, and even a non-motorised shopping trolley seemed to have that same power over the human mind.

But my pet hate is drivers who simply don’t think of the other people on the road. The motorbike that sneaks through a waiting traffic to get in front; the cyclists who ride in pairs, blocking a one lane road and slowing down the traffic to a crawl; the women who decide to apply their make up while waiting for the lights to change; the teenagers who have blaring music that vibrates through the body of your car; the parents who zoom through school zones oblivious to the primary school kids that are crossing; the do-gooders who stop to let every single car into the lane while a backlog is created behind them; the pedestrians who chat away at the lights and decide to walk when the ‘do-not-walk’ sign lights up; the parents who force you to wait while they finish their conversation at a pedestrian crossing; the grandparent who clips your car as they drive along searching for their grandchildren, not even aware that they have hit your car; the man who sits in a convertible and brushes his hair every time the car stops; mothers who constantly turn to tend to the need of the child in the back seat, and the tailgaters who refuse to understand that you are already driving at the maximum speed limit.

I remember thinking that driving was once considered as a most relaxing activity. Relaxing? As if!

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