Martyn Halcrow

Thank You for Not Interrupting

I have bought a second-hand Fairway Silver. It is not as smart as a new Fairway Bronze Driver Executive Plus, but I console myself that it is half the price and easier to describe. Both my Fairway and the BDEP are fitted with a Nissan 2.7 diesel engine. Compared with the old tractors, the new engine does seem very quiet and powerful. Given the traffic conditions in London, however, it may be fanciful to dwell on power: ‘A certain pair of scientists once watched a riot. It seemed to them that those policemen who were armed with both guns and truncheons were more cruel in using their truncheons against the rioters than those policemen who were armed with truncheons only.’

There follows a description of an experiment: ‘And sure enough, exactly as the hypothesis predicted, the two groups that had extra power in reserve made more, and more callous, use of the two buttons they were allowed to use than did the group which had only those two buttons’ (The Adventures of God in His Search for the Black Girl, by Brigid Brophy).

I do not know whether this experiment provides mitigation for the appalling behaviour I am about to describe. There I was, on my way home, driving down Dalston Lane. As I approached the fork with Graham Road, I saw that traffic was tailing back, so I peeled off, as we professional drivers say, towards Graham Road. I noticed in my mirror that another driver was coming up behind. I did not see this as a problem, Your Honour, because my new cab has vastly increased powers of acceleration. However, the driver whose progress I impeded, albeit momentarily, thought otherwise.

He accelerated past me and screeched to a halt. Thanks to the lock of my cab, I was able to drive round him but this manoeuvre failed to mollify him at all. He sat on my tail until we reached Mare Street. A car was in front of me at the lights. The driver behind again overtook me, blocked me and screeched to a halt. He got out of the car and came across to sort me out. He did not know that I had bought the cab the day before. He did not know that I did not know how to operate the central locking system. He assumed that I did. (‘We live by inference.’ – E Goffman.) Instead of trying to open my door, therefore, he contented himself by punching the window (an Everaard 54878).

The last time I punched a window, I broke a finger and went to Casualty. My aggressor walked back to his car and drove off. But there is obviously a fistful of morals here. The whole business of out-accelerating your fellow man is undignified and merely means that you are driving a faster car. So no more fast cars please. The Nissan taxi accelerates to 30 mph in 6. 7 seconds. Smart cars get to 60 mph in the same time. Next on the agenda at Brussels, I want these accelerative differentials sorted out. It is obviously absurd that, in a city with a daytime average speed of max 10 mph, civil war can erupt when drivers make their cars move in a manner commensurate with their capacity. A standardised time of 0-30 in 7 seconds seems to me a sensible compromise.

Given our knowledge of bureaucratic process, it may take some time for my plans to be implemented. As an interim measure, I suggest that you forego the use of the car and use instead a licensed taxi. Although the new cabs are quicker than the old ones, the drivers are in no hurry unless prompted. Just tell them you want a maximum speed of 30 mph. This will set a good example to our European partners and discourage the import of those fast German and Swedish cars which seem to be overly represented in the law courts and at Her Majesty’s garden parties. I think this is a jolly sound plan, but I have not yet put it to the vote.

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