Or, rather, overseen.
Walking along the street, in a fairly quiet neighbourhood, but not so dead that there’s nobody in sight. A man pulls up in a fairly battered 20-year-old car. He stops it, gets out, and pops into a shop – leaving the car unlocked with the keys inside and the engine ticking over.
Either this man is some sort of well-known local underworld bigwig, or he’s so blasé he doesn’t care. Or, possibly, he was hoping it would disappear when he returned. Maybe its starter was so dodgy, he didn’t dare risk turning the thing off. I had turned the street before he returned, but nobody looked likely to try jumping inside and driving it away.
I seem to be becoming a worse driver.
This isn’t by my own judgement, but by the judgement of other people. Specifically, more and more people seem to have started beeping me for doing what they think is The Wrong Thing. I’m not sure what the problems are. I always signal, I travel at a reasonable speed,* I try to drive assertively and take up the appropriate space on the road. There’s nothing wrong with the car, so far as I can tell. So why have people decided to start beeping me all of a sudden?**
H, incidentally, has suggested I should teach her how to drive. And I realised, thinking about it, that I have no idea at all any more how to drive, or rather, how to explain how to drive. The manuals I assume say something like: “press gently with your right foot and at the same time lift your left foot up until you start to feel the clutch engage, then increase power whilst raising your left foot smoothly and releasing the handbrake”. If you drive, though, you don’t consciously do all that; you just wiggle your feet a bit and you’re away. I have no idea how I would go about explaining all the various simultaneous processes to someone, in a car without dual controls.
* usually at the speed limit. Honest, officer. Ahem.
** or wave their fist and shout “Wanker!” like the cyclist the other day. OK, I pulled out in front of him. It was thick fog, he was wearing dull clothing, and didn’t have any lights on his bike, so when I started moving I had no idea at all he was there. Tosser.
It’s Friday lunchtime. I’ve popped into town just to get out of the office for an hour, and now it’s time to head back to work. Into the car, and I’m gently drifting through the car park towards the exit with an Add N To X album playing loudly on the stereo, when…
Something is moving too close to me, but before I can respond – BANG!
A big, dark car has driven right into the side of me. I jump out of the car in a great panic, forgetting to turn off the engine or even try to take the key out.
I had absolutely no idea what to do. I’ve been in crashes before, but only ever as a passenger. This was the first time that anything bad had happened to my own car. I was shaky, jittery, shocked and adrenalin-flooded. No idea what I should be doing, other than taking down the other driver’s name and address. Looking back, though, luck was on my side. I’m not hurt, and the shock went away after a few hours. The car still works. I can still drive it, even if it does have a big, nasty dent in the side. If I’d been hit a foot further forward, the door would probably be unusable; and I’d have possibly been hit too. If it was a foot further back, the back axle might well have been wrecked. As it is, though, I just have a big dent until the garage can manage to get hold of some replacement panelling.