After dropping my car off at the garage the other day I had some time to waste. I didn’t have any great plans to fill the car-less void, but I informed the lady at the ‘service & parts’ desk that I’d find some way of passing the time until she phoned to tell me that my car was in a serious, but stable, condition.
I was actually a little insulted when she immediately scribbled “walking around” on my form, as if she knew instinctively that that’s the best I’d be able to do. I thought she was a little hasty. I mean, what’s to say I wasn’t going to have several hours of sweaty, animalistic sex to while away the hours…or visit Warwick Castle.
Sadly, however, she was right, and I decided to stick my iPod on and walk into Leamington, which I assumed would be showery and uneventful.
However, as I walked up Rugby Road in Warwick I became aware of a car moving ridiculously slowly in my direction, with a fairly lengthy queue of traffic behind it. I fully expected to see either a Mr Magoo character in the driver’s seat or a wizened old lady (unable to see over the dashboard and holding onto the steering wheel for dear life, like Harold Lloyd hanging off the clock in ‘Safety Last‘).
However, as I drew level with the battered old Fiesta I was surprised (nay, alarmed) to see that I was wrong on both counts, because there was no driver at all! With The Strokes playing loudly in my ears, I threw a panicked glance at the woman in the car immediately behind the driverless vehicle, but she looked somewhat nonplussed. I felt like I’d entered some kind of alternate reality. Was no one else noticing the distinct lack of any kind of driver?!
Unfortunately, the car was heading slightly downhill so it picked up speed fairly quickly. And as the car started to veer across the road, I feared it was only going to be a matter of seconds before a hideous accident occurred in front of my eyes. I quickly checked what was approaching in the opposite direction and was almost relieved to see a Goldline bus advancing (preferable to a glowing, young mother pulling her twins along in a baby bike trailer).
At that point I ran into the road towards the bus, waving my arms like a maniac for it to stop, which it duly did. As I ran alongside the car I had fleeting thoughts of throwing myself in front of it to bring it to a stop. Had I attempted that, though, it would’ve mown me down for sure (a dead hero is no good to anyone, I thought). And with that, the car hit the bus head-on with a dull metal-on-metal crunch.
The bus driver – a weighty Al Murray lookalike who, I suspect, eats the majority of his passengers – wobbled from the bus and expressed bewilderment in fluent cockney. Meanwhile, several passengers disembarked to continue their journey on foot, with one bloke in his early twenties furiously snapping the scene with his camera phone. Given that there had been no fatalities and no one was either aflame or suffering from multiple fractures, I grabbed my iPhone and started snapping too.
My motivation to snap photos was simple: Twitter. Finally, I’d have something halfway interesting to tweet instead of “going to Tesco”. If I’m completely honest, during my short time on Twitter I’ve occasionally found myself fantasising about being caught up in a newsworthy event, like when US Airways flight 1549 ditched in New York’s Hudson River. Janis Krums (@jkrums) was aboard one of the ferries that went to rescue the stranded passengers, which gave him the opportunity to take a photo of the downed (and rapidly sinking) aircraft only minutes after it had plunged into the Hudson.
Maybe this was my Hudson River plane crash, I thought.
Of course, in reality, a Fiesta crashing into a bus (a bit like a sparrow flying into an elephant’s arse) was sort of a non-league version of a Premier League event like the Hudson River miracle. And the fact that it took the police nearly 45 minutes to drag themselves out of the nearest Starbucks to attend the crash perhaps illustrated what a non-event it was.
[A much more dramatic event happened a few years ago, when a man driving in front of me in a Jag had a heart attack and drove off the road at 50mph, hitting a road sign on the way. I immediately stopped my car and ran heroically into the undergrowth to retrieve what I hoped wasn’t a decapitated body, before re-appearing only a few seconds later. “Oh my god. Is he dead?” asked one of the many concerned drivers who’d congregated at the roadside to assist. “I don’t know, I can’t reach the driver’s door for nettles,” I replied. Big hero.]
While waiting for the police, I directed traffic (becoming Officer Tourette in the process). I spent most of the time halting traffic with one hand, beckoning drivers through with the other, and then screaming: “Stop rubber-necking and fucking drive!” or “Oi! Dickhead! Look at me…at me…AT ME! Stop gawping and drive through!!!” (By the way, to the bloke in the silver 4×4 who chose to nearly run me over instead of waiting just a couple of minutes while I let some traffic through from the opposite direction: you’re a cock-head.)
Eventually, the driver of the Fiesta turned up. He was a Sikh gentleman with a greying beard and slightly shaky hands (presumably from being told that his car was no longer outside his house; it was buried in a bus). Still, it was a painfully ordinary end to the whole show. I wanted the situation to turn into the Twilight Zone, where the police discovered that the Fiesta and it’s driver were destroyed and killed in a fiery motorway pile-up ten years earlier, so no one knew how the car had got there. Unlikely, yes. More interesting, definitely!
I tweeted some photos of the driverless car crash on Twitter, but it hardly set the world alight. Maybe one day I’ll really be in the eye of the storm and the world will await my dramatic tweets with baited breath. But until then, I’m off to Tesco.