When I was a lad and learning to drive, my Dad always warned me to watch out for ‘the car’. What he meant was the vehicle that – unerringly and without fail – would always be there, instantly, as I backed out of a driveway, or as I tried to change lanes, or turn a corner. The road could be completely empty, but nonetheless ‘the car’ would always turn up at the precise wrong moment and force me to give way to it.
At the time, foolish teenager that I was, I always thought this was just a joke. But, something-something decades and around 250,000 km of driving later, I can state for a fact that ‘the car’ isn’t just real. It is, indeed, always there.
Let me put it this way. The other day, with New Zealand in hard lockdown and no vehicles allowed on the roads other than for essential travel to supermarkets, I made a trip to the supermarket. And as I backed out of the driveway, sure enough – there it was. ‘The car’, arriving out of nowhere at precisely at the point where I had to abort the manoeuvre in order to avoid being hit as it swept past. It was, of course, the sole other vehicle on the road.
I’ve noticed the same thing in any parking space. If I’m backing out of the parking space, unerringly another vehicle next to mine will do the same thing. Instantly. Or if I pull in to a parking space and go to leave the car, another vehicle will instantly sweep in to the empty space next to mine, making opening the door hazardous. Or if I need to reverse anywhere, instantly another car appears – as if by magic – preventing me from doing so. What gets me is how instant this all is – it doesn’t appear a few seconds before, or a few seconds later. It’s always right on the button.
Sometimes ‘the car’ isn’t a car. It’s a truck. I notice this regularly when driving between cities. Every time, just as I’m about to pull into the highway and start accelerating, I have to give way to a truck. Then I’m stuck behind it for the next 80 or 90 km. It’s both instant and automatic. The problem is that the speed limit for trucks is 10 km/h slower than that for cars, meaning that every truck ends up with a conga-line of frustrated drivers sitting behind it. New Zealand highways, of course, are mostly only two lane and it’s impossible to pass a huge, snaking Kiwi-style AB-train with any safety.
Lest anybody suppose I only notice the times I’m inconvenienced by a vehicle arriving at precisely the wrong moment, I’ve done tallies. It happens to me a lot more often than not. Doubtless Carl Jung could explain it. Or maybe not.
Do you have problems with ‘the car’ instantly turning up, precisely at the wrong moment, every time you try to do anything on the road?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2021