I’m slow to anger. We’re all human. We come from different places, have our own opinions, and all make mistakes. It’s easy to be rude or inconsiderate by accident, but to misunderstand or not notice someone, to put a foot wrong, is not a crime.
Another driver and I once navigated a corner badly and took out one another’s paintwork, because we were both tired. We raised our eyebrows, hugged, and spent no more time on it. A gentle and forgiving approach to other humans is a sign of strength, allowing trust to build, friendships to be forged, and saving time that would otherwise be wasted on processing unnecessary anger.
This morning, I drove to a Parkrun. I put on the radio, sang (cat-howled) along to Sia and headed east. Almost immediately, I got stuck behind a 30 mph van towing a trailer. And he slowed for every corner. Slower and slower, we went. I watched the clock and hoped I’d make it on time, as a big queue formed behind me. I tried to overtake but there were too many bends, and on the rare, short straight bits, the van speeded up to 40mph rather than pulling over to let people past.
Yes, it was frustrating. But not a real problem.
And then the large truck several cars behind me got annoyed. Fuelled by frustration and anger, he screamed up past the cars behind me, came to overtake me, failed to spot the trailer in front of me, tried to pulled in right in front of me, noticed the trailer at the last minute, and swerved back into the overtaking lane where a tiny, oncoming car was now approaching the corner at 50-60mph.
The van and trailer slowed for the corner, we all bunched up, and the truck and small car were still approaching one another at a cumulative 100-120 mph. The truck was huge in relation to the little car. The driver of the little car was going to die, actually die, in front of us. The truck was right alongside me, stuck on the wrong side of the road just metres from the little car now, and there was no hard shoulder.
I turned my wheel towards the hedge, slammed on my brakes, and watched as the green wall approached at terrifying speed while my ABS shuddered under my feet. In the mirror, I saw the blue car swerving and braking behind me. The van and trailer rumbled on, oblivious to all other traffic. The truck swerved into the gap I’d made, missing my wing by about 3 inches, and the little oncoming car reached the corner, swerved the other way, and vanished behind him.
As the truck rattled on, now tailgating the (still oblivious?) van and trailer, I swung back into the road, hedge foliage shrieking and scratching at my windows, while the blue car did the same behind me. The little oncoming car emerged from behind the truck, doing the same on the other side, wobbling his way west. All of us drove slowly, feeling our way back to normal, everyone still breathing.
I watched the truck hammering on into the distance and wondered just how self-centred you have to be, to be prepared to risk everyone’s lives just to barge your own way through to your destination.
RUDE, I thought.
I’ve spent weeks in hospital trying to protect my family from a congenital health problem that may affect them in later life, while this bastard in a lorry just decided my survival wasn’t worth jack. (And if I was 3 inches off a bad crash, the guy in the oncoming car was lucky to survive at all.)
Rudest man in the world, I thought. And for the first time in a week, I stopped feeling frightened and miserable. I felt furious. Furious and determined to stay alive, to look after my family in the fiercest way.
The radio was still blaring. It had changed from music to a news story about a mother and baby killed in the hurricane in America. Jesus. I spared a thought for them, for their families; life’s so random, so cruel and kind in no particular order. God, we have to enjoy the moment. I flicked the button to Heart FM and sang along to Ed Sheeran. Sorry, Ed, I ruined it.
I destroyed tunes all the way to Parkrun, where I pulled in to find a man in front of my car. I stepped out and he came to say hi, smiling.
He asked if I was OK. ‘I was behind you,’ he said, ‘there are some nutters out there.’ He was the driver of the blue car. He was fine. Fit, healthy, alive. Real. I apologised for braking so hard but he said I’d had no choice. He was fine. We were fine. We wished one another a good run and I wished I’d asked his name, but at least we’d been able to say hi and have a laugh.
I’m following the two fast ones
I ran the run. It was sunny and the forest felt very alive. I followed a guy who smelled of sweets or fruit or something lovely (God knows – I couldn’t exactly ask! – but it was better than the more common armpit-and-feet pong and it made the miles pass in a nice way). At the finish, a friend called out my name and shouted, ‘Go on! Go on!’ and I squoze out a final burst of energy. Other friends congregated around the finish and we all chatted in the sun. The guy I’d followed thanked me and I’m not sure why, but he’d been a brilliant pacer so I thanked him back. Someone else felt faint but runners rallied round and it was all OK. I told a couple of our coaches about the potential health thing and they talked about other people who had been — and run — through the same. They made my fears sound familiar and manageable. The sun warmed our backs.
My coach said, ‘On Monday, I’m going to make you run up hills.’ He grinned.
‘I love hills,’ I said. And everything felt OK.