Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Now, most people are pedestrians most of the time. Despite the attractiveness of it, driving directly into your home and then around it, is simply impractical, as is cycling into work and up to your desk or helicoptering into Londis for some Bisto Best. Despite the utter shame of it, we all have to walk on a pavement at some point in the day. The only dispensation is to those lucky types with Shopability type scooter things who cause wondrous mayhem by travelling very slowly along the inside lane of the North Circular in some form of befuddled rebellion.

However, some of us are professional pedestrians. I count myself as one of these. My attempts to drive have been hilarious and highly dangerous. One driving instructor always commented ‘have you been on the voddies?’ which I didn’t appreciate, while another insisted on telling me at length about the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of his brother-in-law. I wasn’t really a pupil, more of a counsellor. Both these experiences have kept me firmly glued to the pavement.

So the horrendous rage suffered by all who make the mistake of crossing the threshold and stepping outside is transposed from being in a car to being outside of one. Anger is generated by poor foot trafficking skills, appalling pushchair manoeuvres, the complete breakdown of cycling proficiency and cars in general, especially the attitude towards zebra crossings.

Bad pavement walking is the worst and has increased a thousand-fold since the growth in popularity of the cellular phone. Where in the past people strode manfully along a street with purpose and military precision, now idiots stand in your way and either twirl pointlessly while engrossed in conversation or veer violently as they come to terms with the vagaries of predictive text. And they are completely immune. If you give them a firm tut at their repellent behaviour, they stare at you with a look of, ‘can’t you see I am talking on a phone’ as their defence.

Pushchairs are fine, I can understand their practical application. It’s when they are used as a weapon that I become upset. In the same way that zig-zagging along a street is completely justified if the zig-zagger is using a phone, so ramming a pushchair into your shins in the produce section of a supermarket is fine as there is a child involved. While they certainly help in the transportation of children, they also double as an effective cow-catcher, ploughing a lane through any congested street at the expense of your ankles.

Cyclists have lost the plot completely. When did the entente cordiale between the walker and the biker end? There used to be an understanding. It was us against them. The cyclist and the pedestrian united against the tyranny of cars. And then one morning I was happily and legally crossing a road when someone on a pushbike nearly ran me down and then screamed abuse at me for getting in their way. And I knew the world had changed. No more allegiances, the cyclists had left us behind and decided to take on the battle single-handedly and jettison us in the process. Recently I saw a bike messenger run over someone’s feet. It was quite extraordinary. They were standing, waiting to cross, in the road but behind a parked car so they were safe, and a cyclist went out of their way to run over their shoes. The poor man was dumbstruck as he stared at the tyre marks on his loafers and a passing Mad Max style messenger swore at him. It will end in tears, I warn you.

My hatred of drivers and their knowledge of zebra crossings is something that is strengthened every day. I don’t quite understand, because as a failed driving pupil, it was beaten into me every lesson to slow down when approaching a crossing and if you see someone even possibly, vaguely thinking about approaching the zebra or even looking at the crossing in a suggestive way, then you had to stop. So why, every morning, does some tit in a BMW accelerate when they see me ON the zebra crossing. I have now been reduced to screaming at them. I’m not known as a public screamer, but in this case I’ve been driven to it. ‘Prick’ is my screaming epithet of choice, as its short, concise and hopefully bears enough harsh constantan sounds to penetrate the back window of a standard saloon. I also find myself having extended sarcastic conversations with the drivers along the lines of, ‘Oh yes, just keep going, don’t check to see if there’s anyone crossing, I could have been a small child or a confused young mum trying to juggle my childcare arrangements with a part-time job at a local dentists office. There’s a school there you know and a library, so you have young people and the infirm using this crossing on a regular basis. And what’s so important that you have to drive so quickly and ignore the basic principles of the Highway Code…’ etc etc. Sometimes I’m back home and in the kitchen before the dialogue finishes.

So my advice? Never leave the house. Or if you do, try and pick up one of those Shopability scooters. They are the ultimate weapon in the covert war against all.

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