A new mode of motoring
Neil Pickford changes gear.
I was amused and then bemused a few years ago when, courtesy of Top Gear (a televisual programme dedicated to fans of automotive acceleration – a.k.a. ‘petrolheads’) I was introduced to the concept of ‘Christian Driving’.
This was a not-entirely serious attempt to describe the driving habits of James May, apparently the most serious minded of three presenters, who is known to the other two as ‘Captain Slow’. Never fully explained, it gave me an image of someone who was courteous at road junctions and inclined to let other traffic pull out in front of him.
I’m ashamed to admit that this was not my natural behaviour on the roads.
I was of the: “Oh no – another second delayed at a junction is another second of my life wasted” school. This did mean that there was rarely anyone faster off the mark then me when traffic lights changed, which was a source of great satisfaction to me until the next delay, about five yards up the road, when I caught up with slower vehicles from the previous release. Then I would fret and curse until I finally got home, where I could slump down and complain about how awful my journey had been.
I freely admit that it’s not good behaviour and over the last few months my attitude has changed, Not, I must admit, due to an increasing maturity in my old age but thanks to the type of car I’m driving.
For most of my adult life, except when an employer has provided me with a Mini or similar ‘cramp-mobile’ I’ve been happy inside a four-door saloon. Most of them haven’t been particularly flash or sporty but average vehicles with an average engine that travelled comfortably around town or down long stretches of motorway.
However, due to a rather bizarre set of circumstances I seem to have ended up with a shiny little thing that has a paper-thin clutch plate and roars like a farting sewing machine on steroids.
Inside it I feel about as comfortable as a live sardine in a vibrating tin and, after an initial sprint from nought to 20 miles per hour, it accelerates about as quickly as an arthritic octogenarian. It breaks into a sweat when pitched against a disabled scooter and has been known to go backwards when heading into a strong wind.
It’s even more embarrassing than my father’s old Reliant Supervan; plus it rudely beeps at me if I don’t fasten the seatbelt.
Why? It’s not as if I’ll ever go fast enough to be thrown out when I’m turning – there’s a greater chance of me being drowned if I’m strapped in and trying to outrun the tide on the beach at Scarborough.
However, it does allow me to pretend to be following the Christian Driver approach – in fact it makes it imperative that I should because my current performance on the road is an abject disaster. Because I can’t gun the motor and snap the clutch into place as I wait at junctions I now kindly wave people past me, covering my lack of power with courtesy and a smile. And, do you know what? It’s making a difference!
Suddenly people are smiling back at me, thanking me for my consideration. They then feel in a more generous mood and smile at other people, making my single enforced act of charity spread out in ripples through everyone they encounter. It’s a very nice feeling, to be honest.
Of course, behind me there is probably a queue of highly- stressed individuals all cursing and swearing at me but my advice to them is to take up Christian Driving. It makes the journey longer but it doesn’t seem longer and, en route, you’re spreading a little happiness as you go.
Mind you, I still want a better car.