Friday, 16 September 2016
Round the bend
Multi-tasking? Some days it is all I can do to watch the telly AND listen to it; I tend to drift off. As the old saw goes “Sometime, oi sits an’ oi thinks. Sometimes, oi jes’ sits...” And when it comes to driving, it’s a hard enough thing to do properly anyway, without added distractions such as scenery, passengers, other cars and the radio. The radio, you say, surely that’s not much of a distraction but, trust me, it’s tricky. I have often had to forego the details of a piece of radio drama, or a searing political analysis in order to concentrate on negotiating the new road layout around roadworks, or even to just creep forward, three yards at a time, in the regular snarl-ups that constitute motorway travel in Britain today.
When Britain’s first motorway, which later became the M6, opened in 1958 (as old as me and just as slow) people travelled out from Preston to wait on bridges and wave at the cars below. Such was the novelty. Today, people travel miles to avoid the clogged arteries of the wheezy old transport network. It’s a tedious drag, fraught with peril as lane-hoppers, tail-gaters and a mad procession of vehicular morons try to kill you as you’re trying to concentrate on the weather forecast and it’s not often I agree with the Daily Mirror but we are in the midst of a new epidemic of stupidity and selfishness and downright criminal negligence.
What is so novel about mobile communications that dribbling morons will queue for days to own a device that ultimately appears to own them? Some people are so attached to their electronic owner I suspect they rely on it to tell them when to breathe in and out. And even the sanest can find it next to impossible not to check their screen every few minutes. So it’s little wonder that there is a rising toll of death due to telephone on Britain’s roads. They are talking about bigger fines, but I’d suggest an on-the-spot day in a cell and your car impounded for a week... along with your phone.
The roads were dangerous enough with just British morons on them but down here in the southeast you are just as likely to be taken out by a Latvian as by a home-grown lunatic. You have to wonder whether the standard of their driving test is the equivalent of ours, not that the acquisition of a full licence necessarily says anything about competence, but we’ve all seen those Russian dashcam videos. Maybe everybody should follow the good example of a young Pole, Janusz, who recently applied for a UK driving licence.
As a pre-requisite he had to undertake a medical examination, including an eye test. In the consulting room the doctor dimmed the lights and on the opposite wall illuminated the eye test chart. “Read the top line for me, please.” Janusz was instructed, which he duly did with ease. Then with alternate eyes covered he was asked to read lower and smaller-font lines until the doc was satisfied. Finally, the doctor gave him a card with the tiny letters: 'C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.' “Can you read this?” he was asked. Janusz grinned and replied “Read it? He’s a friend of mine!”