Road rage meets country cool

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The Independent Online
"What's this here road rage I keep hearing about?" said the old farmer at the bar, as I lounged about the pub with my ears open for country wisdom. "Know what it is, Ted?"

"It's when two motorists gets so annoyed at each other's driving that one of them gets out and thumps the other one or maybe attacks his car," said the man called Ted.

"Where do they do this?" said the farmer. "They must be driving bloody slowly to have time to get out and thump each other."

"On motorways and in big cities, as far as I can make out," said Ted. "They're all pent up inside their little cars and fuming away because they can't make no progress, so when some other motorist does something which seems unforgivable to them, they blame everything on them and get out and thump them. It relieves their feelings, see."

"Is that why you see cars blazing on the side of motorways sometimes? Have they been set alight by, what do you call them, road ragers?"

"Well, I don't know if they set alight to each other's cars. I think they normally just hit each other and yell blue murder."

"Why is murder always supposed to be blue?" wondered the farmer's wife out loud, but nobody paid any attention.

"I've seen chickens do that," said the farmer.

"Set fire to cars?" said a man called Pete.

"Peck each other," said the farmer. "When they're shut up in an enclosed space with not enough room, they go a bit batty and start damaging each other. Roost rage, maybe. Same symptoms as road rage, anyway."

"You could get a grant from the National Lottery for that," said Ted. "Dear sir, I am setting up a road rage simulation centre using chickens in order to examine the basic nature of the urge to peck each other to death, which could either be used scientifically or as a fringe drama activity with TV potential. Please send me pounds 5,000."

"You don't catch me going in for the National Lottery," said the farmer. "I fill in enough forms as it is."

"There's a basic flaw in all this," said the man called Pete. "Everyone seems to be assuming that when motorists get shut up in a small space, they go barmy. But motorways are big spaces. Cities have lots of roads. It's down here in the country that we have tiny lanes where you can't pass each other. You'd think we'd go mad in these lanes where, if you go round a bend and there's a car coming the other way, it takes five minutes to work out who's nearest a passing space."

"And the result is quite the opposite. Instead of raging, we are all very polite," said Ted, "and we give way the whole time, and we back up gracefully, and we say 'No, after you,' and we thank each other very politely, and wave a lot."

"Self-preservation," said the farmer. "We know we have to work out our own code of driving, otherwise nobody would ever get by. Mark you," he added, "I've noticed that when I'm out on a tractor and meet a car coming the other way down a small country lane, the other person always gives way in a blue funk. No fists up or anything. No tractor tantrums. Odd, that."

"I wonder why a funk is always blue," said his wife, but nobody was listening.

"Occasionally," said the farmer, "I meet a car down a lane which is parked in such a way that I can't get past, and I hoot for the driver, and if he doesn't come, I sometimes find myself just tipping him gently in the ditch."

"Lane lunacy," said someone.

"No," said the farmer. "I never lose my temper. Can't afford to do that. Takes a cool head to tip a car in a ditch and make it look like an accident. Anyway, you don't want to tip it in too far, because odds are they'll come to your farm to ask for help in pulling it out again."

"I've come across this on the canal," I said. Every eye turned to look at me. Nobody said anything.

"When I'm biking along the towpath, I mean," I said. "You get really quite ferocious confrontations between cyclists and walkers, if the cyclist is going too fast and the walker thinks he didn't ring his bell. Shouting matches. 'You nearly ran over my dog!' 'Well, you shouldn't have bloody dogs running loose on the canal!' and so on. Not so much road rage. Sort of canal coolness."

More silence.

"Mark you, it's only once in a blue moon that you ever get things escalating into violence."

Everyone resumed their private conversations, except for the farmer's wife, who said: "I wonder why moons are supposed to be blue?"

Nobody paid any attention to her. I knew how she felt now. I don't think I have got the hang of the art of pub chat yet.