If I end up dying young (and for the sake of argument let’s just agree that 35 is young) I can see myself slumping lifelessly behind the wheel of my car, as a deafening chorus of car horns drown out my wheezy last breath. Yes, that’s right, I’ll die during my stressful commute to work. And due to the fact that I’ll probably expire while my lips are curled tightly around a particularly vicious expletive, mouth to mouth resuscitation will be impossible. The paramedics will have no choice but to let me go.
But God help Saint Peter if there’s sluggish or tailbacked traffic at the pearly gates (or, worse, an elderly woman in front of me driving a Rover 25).
I’ve been driving for 18 years, but I’m getting increasingly more aggressive and impatient as I get older. I’m actually quite a pleasant chap in my day to day life. But when I get into my car and click on the seatbelt, I often become possessed by the spirit of ‘Road Rage Toots’ (a nickname that I think was coined by either Emma Jones or Alex Hyrniewicz – or maybe neither).
Road Rage Toots is very similar to Competitive Toots; the former just uses the word cu*t more often.
Only recently, I spat out the words “Citroen Saxo Cu*t!” with the same vitriol and disgust that one might save for heckling a perma-tanned old Nazi, returning in cuffs from South American exile, with a rap sheet of heinous crimes against humanity. Admittedly, my reaction was slightly disproportionate to the driver’s offence – suddenly cutting into my lane without signalling – but there’s rarely time for balanced reasoning during the heat of the rush hour.
Similarly, I once spent about ten minutes intermittently shouting at woman who cut me up at a roundabout (probably quite innocently). The hook for this particular incident, which enabled me to stew over it for so long, was the fact that I thought she bore a passing resemblance to serial killer Rose West.
I’m like the Haley Joel Osment of the road rage world: “I see serial killers…driving inconsiderately.” It probably won’t be long before I’m tailgated by a Dr Harold Shipman look-alike in a BMW 5 Series. Or maybe I’ll be forced to make an emergency stop by Peter Sutcliffe’s doppelganger, jumping the lights in a Kia Picanto. The possibilities are endless.
My worst road rage moment happened about four years ago while I was driving to work. A gold Mercedes estate aggressively overtook me – when I’d only just negotiated a chicane coming out of a village, and was also trying to accelerate uphill in my 1.2 litre Fiat Punto – so I gave the driver my middle finger. I even turned to look at the driver while I did it, wearing an expression that just said: “Yeah, that’s right, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Fuck you!”
I actually felt a little embarrassed when I saw that the Mercedes wasn’t being driven by an arrogant businessman in a suit, but rather a homely-looking blonde woman in her late forties. I’ll never forget the look of total disbelief that washed across her face, before her features contorted into a sort of Frank Spencer “Ooh, Betty!” expression. Shortly after that, she swerved dangerously in front of me and performed an emergency stop, which forced me to slam on my brakes and scream like a little girl to prevent my car from disappearing up her exhaust pipe. (Embarrassingly, my girly scream was marginally louder than the screech of my tyres.)
I ended up hitting the kerb and stalling my car. My legs then began shaking uncontrollably, as if I’d just been pulled from the Baltic Sea after an ill-advised skinny dip. A strong smell of rubber then began to seep through my car’s vents, before the Mercedes driver accelerated away at speed, leaving me emasculated at the side of the road.
I occasionally emasculate myself, which is fine (in moderation). For instance, only the other week I found myself happily watching ‘Being Erica’ whilst munching through a pack of chocolate HobNobs and drinking Baileys. But it’s far less enjoyable when you’re emasculated by a crazed, Mercedes-driving bitch in the cold light of day.
Still, I took the incident as a sign that I should calm down and stop overreacting to every little traffic misdemeanour I spot. And I should certainly stop making enemies of fellow motorists.
It’s now four years on and I’m still trying to calm down in the car. On my way home from work in the evening I now listen to Margherita Taylor’s soothing voice on Classic FM’s ‘Smooth Classics at Six’, which is the middle-class equivalent of listening in to a conversation on Babestation. It sort of works. It calms me down. But every now and then, when I’m just about to lose myself in something beautiful, like Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’, I’ll suddenly hurl a torrent of abuse at another driver. It’s like watching a sufferer of night terrors switch from peaceful sleep one minute, to strangling a pillow – while frothing at the mouth and mumbling incoherently about intruders – the next.
Another cure for my road rage has been to drive my girlfriend’s company car: a Jaguar XF. It’s such a sleek, sexy and frighteningly fast car that I simply don’t care what other drivers are doing. And if anyone does come racing up behind me, kissing my bumper, I just laugh quietly to myself at the futility of their actions. I laugh like a man who might take a drag from a cigarillo, knock back a brandy, and then calmly press the ‘oil slick’ button on the steering wheel, before glancing in my rear view mirror to see a group of teenage tossers (driving a Dimma converted Fiat Tipo) slide off the road and burst into flames after hitting a tree.
There’s something wonderfully relaxing about the fact that very few cars on the road have the ability to take you on…and win. It’s like taking an M1A2 Abrams battle tank onto the country’s congested A-roads – no one’s going to fuck with you. So maybe ‘Competitive Toots’ and ‘Road Rage Toots’ have more in common than I first thought, and driving is just another competitive sport. If so, there’s little hope for me. So here’s a word to the wise: don’t meet me during rush hour.