Sunday, 7 October 2007

When tailgating is okay

Of all the many ways fellow road users can get my blood up, tailgating for me is the worst. There’s just something so exceedingly stupid about driving too close to the person in front of you. At the lower speeds – say, under 70kph – it’s madly irritating to be tailgated; any faster, and it becomes blatantly dangerous.

I have a trick that I employ for tailgaters, although not when my children are in the car with me (because it is, you could argue, equally dangerous). When I get some pinhead sitting on my bumper, I’ll let him or her (although, I’m sorry to say, it’s usually a him) get up nice and close, then I’ll jam on my brakes. I do it fiercely and briefly, so my brake lights flare for just a second and my speed drops inconsequentially – but it’s usually enough to send the tailgater into a frenzy.

The amazing thing about their reaction – they, too, jam on their brakes, and often there’s a nasty little skid before they regain control of their vehicle – is that it’s usually outraged indignation. How dare I have scared them like that? I get hooted at, headlights flash fiercely on and off, and fingers get flipped.

How can they not clock that, had something – a dog, a cat, a goat, a child – run out into the road in front of me, I’d have had to brake equally without warning, equally hard and, in fact, with a view to really slowing down, a lot and quickly? How can they not understand that, if I’d had to genuinely brake suddenly to avoid an accident, they would have run into the back of my car – hard and fast, the very way they’d been tailgating me?

(For those of you not living in South Africa, where the notion of some living creature ambling without warning out on to the road in front of you is perhaps unthinkable, let me say this: our local radio station often broadcasts warnings of, for instance, a herd of cows wandering around on the N1 or the N2, the national roads that carry heavy, fast and continuous traffic in and out of Cape Town from and to the rest of the country.)

But there is one instance in which tailgating – albeit at close-to-zero speed – is acceptable, and that’s at the notorious Koeberg Interchange in Cape Town. Here, three lanes of traffic narrow down to two, then to one, in order to cross a bridge over a river. It’s one of only two exits from the city to the heavily populated northern suburbs, both of which feed out onto the N1 – so you can imagine the traffic volume. There’s almost never a time when you don’t have to queue, and in morning and evening peak hours it’s not unusual to wait in line for over an hour to get through the interchange.

If, that is, you are waiting in line. If you’re an inconsiderate git, however (and you’ll often be driving a BMW or a 4X4 of some kind), you’ll simply cruise to the front of the tailback, put on your indicator (and this I really love – that indicating that you’re about to queue-jump somehow makes it okay), take advantage of some slow-moving vehicle to nip in at the front, and make your way merrily over the bridge and home to your trophy wife and big-screen TV and kidney-shaped swimming pool, while the rest of us continue queuing with infinite patience and politeness.

(I have to ask: what are these people thinking?! That because their cars cost more than we make in an entire year, they’re entitled to go first? That the normal rules of human decency don’t apply to them? That they’ve already queued somewhere else that day, so this queue doesn’t count? That they’re just, oh I don’t know, better than us?)

Anyway, there I was, at the Koeberg Interchange yesterday morning, queueing with much of the rest of Cape Town to get over the bridge. And watching, with mounting rage, while a series of men with small penises and fast cars, and women whose Botox has turned their faces into plaster-of-Paris and whose 4X4s are their substitute for an orgasm, drove past me, indicated, and pushed into the queue ahead – thereby, of course, making we who were waiting, wait that much longer.

Finally, near the front of the tailback, I got my chance: an overtanned man in a BMW cruised up in the adjacent lane, indicated, drew level with me and tried to nose in in front of me.

I snapped. ‘Fuck you!’ I screamed at him, and lurched my car forward, stopping millimetres from the car in front of me and narrowly missing the BMW’s front bumper.

He sneered in a tremendously ugly way and gave me the finger, secure in the knowledge that the driver behind me would yield. Because – and here’s food for thought – there are people who don’t mind being made to wait an extra 45 minutes for inconsiderate-bastard queue-jumpers, and actually do let them in, apparently without having an aneurism. Amazing.

But you know what? The guy behind me also didn’t let him. Halleluyah! Ignoring small-penis-Mocca-Java-coloured-BMW guy, he simply edged his car forward until I actually felt it connect softly with my back bumper.

And – oh, miracle of miracles – the next guy didn’t let him in either!

So I didn’t even really mind that much when the third car behind did let him in – because at least spMJc-BMW guy been made to sit for five minutes or so, indicator uselessly on, awkwardly positioned between two lanes, being revealed, even if momentarily, for the selfish prick he so obviously is.

There’s a special circle of hell reserved, I believe, for queue-jumpers. And with them are all the mild-mannered nitwits who allow them to do so. Oh, and, of course, the high-speed tailgaters. And all of them are required to negotiate, for eternity, the Koeberg Interchange.

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meggie said...

YES!! What a heartwarming story about the swine in the BMW.
I dont know why they say, 'The meek shall inherit the earth'
I dont think it likely. It will be those porcine creatures in their flash 4x4s.
The traffic behaviour sounds just like Sydney, or Auckland.

Juno said...

I could have written this myself Muriel (though of course I wouldn't have put it half as well).

Tailgating also makes me frenzied, and I also tap my brake lights to get the swine to back off my bumper. The most frightening type of tailgater is the taxi driver, who cannot appreciate that if he rams into the back of whatever car he's brown-nosing, he, and all three of the innocent, seatbelt-less passengers in the front seat will be propelled head-first through the windscreen of the minibus. I thank my lucky starts every day that I don't have to catch taxis.