Brace yourselves, for I am about to explode a cultural myth: British people don’t actually like queuing. Yeah, you heard me.
Queues are miserable. The only reason we tolerate them, and devote what seems to be hours honouring the rules of the line, is because it’s only fair that everyone is miserable. Try to avoid the wait by pushing in, and you risk the entire fabric of democracy. It just won’t do.
Are you ready for a second myth explosion? We’re not all that polite, either. Well, we might seem polite, but that is a carefully crafted façade designed to avoid confrontation. Push to the front of a queue, and you’ll probably hear a tut at most. Behind that tut? Eyes like daggers. A mental note has been made. Your name is on a list.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at what happens on the roads.
For a decent amount of the time, British manners live up to their expectations. We might let each other out at junctions. If you give way to someone, they are expected to acknowledge this with a ‘thank you’ wave. (Not even kidding—this was mentioned in one of my driving lessons.) And you wave back to signal ‘you’re welcome’, with an air of martyred benevolence. All is well. Quaint, even.
But what happens when the ‘thank you’ wave doesn’t happen? Suddenly, the gesture, the personal sacrifice of precious minutes, hasn’t been appreciated; it has been taken for granted. You have been forced to make way by a selfish git. Hell hath no fury like a British driver bellowing ‘YOU’RE WELCOME’ to an unappreciative fellow motorist. There’s no tutting in the car. Because now we are protected by metal and glass; the windows are up; we are inaudible, and untouchable. And the façade slips away.
People who would never dream of being That Person Who Pushes In suddenly become self-entitled ‘AFTER ME’ drivers as soon as they get behind a wheel. They are the ones who use the emergency lane to try and dodge a traffic jam, blocking it and then preventing the emergency vehicles from getting through. They are the ones who pretend they are going right at a roundabout only to go all the way round and take the first exit, cutting in front of the line of traffic waiting in the left-hand lane. They are the ones who tailgate, risking life and limb to overtake when it’s not safe to do so, desperate to save themselves two minutes on their journey.
For everyone else, there are two choices. 1: Get out of their way. 2: Teach them a lesson. The only safe and sensible answer is 1. I know that. This isn’t a protest about man-slamming; we aren’t really in protective cages, or dodgems. But is it OK to enjoy an example of the second choice from time to time?
Behold: Mondeo Man trying to overtake for no reason, and the plucky motorist who said ‘NOT TODAY!’
(Seriously, never do this. Just let it go. Make sure your windows are up, and swear creatively and emphatically. Don’t actually stop and shout at them, because there might be some real road rage rather than just sweary frustration. Just daydream about this.)
Manners maketh man. That counts on the roads too. Being in a car isn’t like being on the island in Lord of the Flies; there’s no need for everything we know about civilisation to slip away. The rules of the road are like the rules of queues: we all know them, even if they make us miserable. Let’s be miserable together; it’s the only fair way.
What brings out your driver rage? Share and commiserate in the comments!
P.S: For the exact opposite of the Mondeo Man incident, look no further than the hilarity that ensues when multiple vehicles arrive at a mini-roundabout at the same time, and no-one knows whose right of way it is. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I’m still there. Send help.