Piggy In The Middle

The idiot-free M5, heading south, Christmas Day.

The idiot-free M5, heading south, Christmas Day.

Happy New yeah, we’re kind of over that now, aren’t we? I mean, it’s getting towards the end of January, and we’ve not really talked much, have we? I’m sorry about that. I was hoping that we would be able to exchange pleasantries and gifts over the yuletide period, but your ‘writer’ didn’t really get the chance.

What I did get the chance to do, however, was traverse a winter wonderland of wanton waste during the festive period. Between midday on Christmas Day, and 3.45pm on New Year’s Day, your roving reporter drove 1886 miles. The sort of mileage that makes Santa sigh, then shit sleigh bells at noon on Christmas Eve, it provided a wonderful snapshot of the best and worst that this country offers at ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

Now, your scribe has been guilty of wasting these pages of piffle to voice some consternation on many mundane subjects. Some subject matter, it can be safely said with an acceptable level of knowledge, and some I can readily admit to having little, but a severe, emotional reaction to. There are a rare few that can be said I have both knowledge of, and reaction to, in equal measure.

‘Motorway Driving Between Christmas and New Year, 2013’ could be my specialist subject on Mastermind, after ‘Unwarranted Outbursts Against Mundane And Irrelevant Shite (1987 – Present Day)’ or ‘Beastie Boys B-Sides Breakbeat Samples’. So before I lay it out for you all, please let me present my carriageway credentials. Over a period of seven holy days, I drove on the following highways and byways of this fair isle: M56, M6, M5, M50, M4, M25, M40, M42, M6 (Toll), M61, M74, M8. I also went on the M66, but I was on the wrong road, so I am not counting that. This reached as far south as Devon, and as far north as Glasgow. Given more ‘M’s than a James Bond script, read by Eminem, eating M&Ms, I feel I have a certain authority when it comes to having an opinion on what is fast becoming the single biggest risk to this nation’s international credibility, domestic safety and ultimate self-destruction:

Motorway middle lane drivers.

You. Yes, I am talking about you, you metallic menace. If you are one of those ‘drivers’  that feel you have a right to drive at any speed in the middle lane of a three-lane highway, then please look away now. Or, in fact, sit in Clockwork-Orange-eyes-wedged-open-so-you-can’t-not-see-the-horror, as your ignorant selfishness is spelled out in front of you, like an empty motorway.

Or, if not, then you are one of ‘us’. There is no middle ground, unlike your middle lane. No grey areas. Right or wrong. Good or evil. Light or dark. Luke or Darth. Milk or plain. The highway code is quite clear on the fact that the middle and right hand lanes are for overtaking. If you are not overtaking, you should return to the left hand lane. Are we all agreed on that? Is there anybody who doesn’t get that? I appreciate that some of my dear rant-absorbers are from parts of the world where this epidemic of twathoofing fuckwittery has been counter-acted by adopting a “sod it, do what you like” attitude to motorway driving. Our friends in the USA, for example, have decided this polite protocol is for pussies. Fair enough. At least the lack of rules is something that even the most idiotic don’t need to understand. If there aren’t any rules, how can they be broken?

During the period of intense transit, I witnessed more accidents and near collisions caused by this legion of the ignorant than anything else: terrible rain, very strong gusts, weaker guts, changeable driving conditions within minutes, and yet this one cause goes unmentioned. As if it is taboo. But nobody says anything because they seem to be so fervent in their belief that it is a right to sit there, ensuring that a three-lane road becomes two, as those law-abiding citizens that have read and understand the rules have to go round them, in the right hand lane. Being in the left hand lane does not have to mean the ‘slow lane’. You can show you are pretty slow by doing 80mph in the middle lane when there is nothing around you.

You don’t go round a roundabout anti-clockwise (in England, at any rate, pedants!). And nor should you go through a red light. These are simple rules that ensure everybody else can anticipate what you’re about to do in a safer environment. We can all have a nice drive on the road, if we all play by the same rules. But some of you (‘them’) want to dance to the beat of a different drum, as Mike Nesmith from The Monkees wrote, and Linda Ronstadt sang (for the Stone Poneys).

To put this heinous cruise-crime into context, here is a short list of things that are not as bad as people who sit in the middle lane, when the left hand lane is clear:

Hitler; scoring 26 with three darts when the first one hits 20; losing the race between your bowels and a bowl of muesli on the morning commute; repeatedly being called Dan when your name is Ben; Luton; people who wear socks with holes in them (a new pair is less than a Sunday paper for fuck’s sake, who are you? Oliver twatting Twist?); any album by Pink Floyd from the 1980’s; Diana Ross’ penalty at the opening ceremony of the 1994 World Cup; Nick Griffin’s eyeline, or accountancy. I could go on. But I think you get the point.

The best time of the year to drive is at around 2.45pm, on Christmas Day, on the M5. Not a car on the road, accompanied by nothing other than a Gingerbread latte, and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange that was eaten like a fresh apple in bites, rather than segments, and conveniently wedged between bites into the air vent next to the steering wheel. A poor substitute for a co-pilot or turkey dinner, granted, and an equally appalling image. But the solitude and almost innocence of the unfettered freeway was liberating.

The worst was Sunday 29th December, 2013. Not only is this week the perineum between the flaccid cock of International Present Day and swinging, joyless bollocks of National Hangover Day in the calendar, this day is the crusty kernel of cack stuck to the hairs. I have never seen such idiocy, by so many, interpreting the same ‘rules’. It took seven hours to return from south-east London to Manchester,  a journey that takes four Earth-hours in real time, at most. In both directions, on every motorway, there were accidents. People who obviously don’t drive very often, fresh from over-indulging for a few days, they get behind the wheels of their over-filled vehicles, and have the reactions of a bear awoken from their hibernation, only more dangerous.

Fortunately, for a great deal of this marathon mystery tour I had a wonderfully patient and caring co-pilot that can witness and verify these statements, as well as read maps. At one point we were keeping score as to which gender was more responsible for the inept driving, or pre-crashing. I am happy to announce that there was no dominating trend. ‘They’ walk among us. In fact, I am sure they stroll their trollies down supermarket aisles, and rather than getting out of the way, will leave their trolley perpendicular to the goods required, and snarl the whole system up. They are maverick fucksticks, and when I am King, they will be first against the wall. Well, second, after Heather Smalls from M-People.  And that is as much M as anyone needs in January.

Join me for similar warmth and cuddles on twitter @benopause or at the Benopausal Facebook page. And please feel free to press the ‘Share’ button below. The grey one. Yes. That one. RIGHT THERE!

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