Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Bird of a Different Sort, Though Equally Annoying

Silly me, I always thought white trash rednecks and road rage were more of an American phenomenon.  It seems they have jumped the pond and landed here in Britain, though maybe it has always been present in what I naively presumed to be a country filled with genteel people who know their social graces.  I think it's the accent that has fooled me all these years.

On Thursday, I was in charge of getting Annie and a couple of her dance classmates to practice since we carpool.  The classes meet at a local village hall, on an out-of-the-way street past the outskirts of town.  The street is filled with mostly middle class housing in addition to the village hall, though there is a pub that always seems to be doing a booming business right across from the hall that serves as a studio for the dance classes.  Cars park along the street, which makes it necessary to pull over or wait your turn in order to pass through the narrowed one lane passage when faced with oncoming traffic. 

The parking area for the village hall will hold about six cars and it's necessary to swing out, even in a smaller car, to squeeze through the entrance which has a wall on either side.  Executing a proper swing isn't always possible since cars tend to line one side of the road, spilling over onto the pavement.  I never attempt to navigate the parking lot when I'm driving the SUV since it's just an invitation to lose a side mirror.  I typically drive my SUV instead of the husband's little silver bullet because we need the seating space for everyone.  I've gotten into the habit of just pulling over to let the girls out in front of the village hall, using a side street further down the road to turn around and head back home.

As usual, I pulled over to let the girls hop out and realized there was a small white car right behind me.  Because the street had the usual cars lining it, I proceeded to the little deserted side road that is my usual turn around spot.  I always use this side road because I have never seen another vehicle on it.

So I'm sitting there in the wrong lane facing nonexistent oncoming traffic on the deserted road (which I pulled into on purpose to get out of the other car's way), waiting to back up and turn around.  I then proceed to wave the little white car around me.  I didn't have her lane blocked and was smiling and gesturing at her with the old universal sweeping forward motion.  The English are famous for this and I have learned to do the same whilst out driving.  People flash their lights or wave you on with their hand, allowing you to turn right in front of them when there is a queue, politely waving you into a lane of traffic or letting you across the road at a zebra pedestrian crossing.  Back in Texas it's not uncommon to see people brandishing weapons when they get angry on the roads, tailgating so that others can't get into a lane of traffic and doing a lot of rude gesturing accompanied by profanity if they feel they've been somehow slighted.  It just seems so quintessentially British, the reserved yet polite and proper air that appears to have been born and bred in them, which spills over into their behavior when behind the wheel.  

Obviously the old broad in the little white car didn't subscribe to this school of thought.  The phrase raised in a barn seemed to be the order of the day.  She sat there as if she had no idea what I was doing.  I smiled and continued to wave her on down the road, thinking she was unable to see me trying to guide her round my car.  I have no idea why this seemed to piss her off, but it did.  She floored her little white car and zipped around the rear of my vehicle, almost clipping my back left fender even though she had plenty of room.  She then slowed down to a crawl, hoisting her right hand in the air out the window to give me the bird.  And she proudly held it up nice and high for me to see until she was well down the road.  

Since she was driving so slowly, I couldn't help but notice a few things about our first interaction with the redneck white trash element here in England.  Her car was small and white, though certainly edging towards dingy cream to almost grey because it probably hadn't been washed since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.  The old gal had stringy, unwashed hair with dark roots at least 3 inches long ending in a bad brassy red dye job.  She was wearing a tank top and her mottled, batwing arms were just a flapping in the breeze as she glared and gave me the finger while her car crept past.  I couldn't help but notice that she was missing more than a few teeth in her head.  What surprised me is that she didn't have a couple of rude and tacky tattoos visible.  My guess is that they would have been misspelled.  Maybe Fack You or Bad Mather Focker.

I guess I wouldn't have been bothered by this little display of rude and uncalled for behavior so much, even though my youngest was in the car with me to witness humanity at its finest, if I had felt that I deserved it.  We've all done stupid things behind the wheel, being a poor judge of speed or timing and thus earning a honk from an irritated driver.  All I did was get out of the way to allow her to continue on down the road and I earned the bird for my efforts.  Old rude and crude needs to pepper her car with some sort of warning and I think bumper stickers would be apropos.  I kinda like "Don't Annoy the Crazy Person", "My Other Car is a Broomstick" or "You Can't Fix Stupid".

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