29 September 2005

The driver



Mostly I drive my car like a considerate road user and law-abiding citizen. I observe speed limits and follow the Highway Code. An old car like mine begs to be driven with reverence and sympathy, bearing in mind it has rolled some 90,000 miles. I was educated in the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” school and reckon I could comfortably pass my driving test again, thirty years on. So how does all this mature motoring proficiency benefit me? Well, when the occasion demands, I know how to drive like a maniac!

The problem with cruising sedately and courteously is that it represses our natural instinct to race. That eight year-old Ford usually behaves like an armchair on wheels. You have to wind the motor above 4,000 rpm for it to become an altogether different proposition. From time to time this reckless behaviour bursts through and reasserts itself, transforming the faithful family saloon into a tarmac-burner. So often music is the trigger to this exuberance on an empty and inviting country road. “I been drivin’ all night man, sweat on the wheel…”

… floor the gas pedal and drop the clutch. Rubber screeches for grip on tarmac as old steel is pushed hard through the gears. In fifth at eighty all four wheels leave the road over a crest, hitting ground again just as I stand on the brakes for a sharp right. Throw it into third and scream out of the turn drifting left. Eyes scanning the open horizon, I see the empty roundabout ahead. Hold the needle on sixty and straight-line the junction, hands crossing on the wheel, tyres kissing the curbs left right and left before hurtling on.

A flat-out downhill stretch puts one twenty on the clock. Golden Earring thunders from the stereo, “…we gotta thing, that’s called radar love.” Unblinking I watch a tightening left approach fast and drop through fourth and third, shedding speed and listening as the engine note rises and the exhaust spits. Heavy braking now for a blind crossroads, then hard acceleration in second, gripping the wheel over familiar bumps in the road. Flicking left and right through back streets and slowing all the time as civilisation approaches with its speed cameras and pedestrians.

The old Ford noses gently into my driveway and glides to a halt. The softly purring motor belies its age. Now I think I fancy a lay down.

20 comments:

RuKsaK said...

One of my oddities, at my age in life, is that I've never learned to drive (years of foreign living basically), but you sell the thrill and the reality well.

transience said...

i never was compelled to drive. but the way you write this makes me wonder.

dAAve said...

been there.
done that.

prefer the mundane.

finnegan said...

Just finished "On The Road" (for the 3rd time) and so this feels like it's spliced onto the DNA of Kerouac's inverted "manic road destiny".

I sometimes think about the outrageous rush that I got from my Alfa Giulia 1300 GT on the Pacific Coast Highway---letting all the shuck and jive of L.A. become mere memories while I raced dolphins and schooners up to San Francisco and back.

Grace said...

Now my old Ford definitely does not behave like that, and it has nothing to do with my driving either! Hey, I'm on Finns blog roll next to you :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

Ruk - I think if you don't do it young you can end up missing out altogether. I learnt at 17 and still get a kick out of it when the road allows.

Trans - no point if you walk with a swagger and grace the sidewalk with your elegance! As you know, my first love is for 2 wheels not 4 and I behave outrageously in that respect!

HP - been there
still doing it!

But boy do I prefer my tarmac burning Yamaha!

Finn - lucky guy to count the legendary Pacific Coast Highway as your erstwhile playground! Sadly we have only bloaters and dinghys along our feeble coast line and neither are up for a race!

Grace - tinker and fettle 'em and even old 'Dagenham dustbins' sure fly! Yes Finn has placed us side by side in dreamland!

Patry Francis said...

Fascinating piece, P.V. I like how you discuss the way being inside a car releases primitive impulses--the impulse to race being only one. I also like the image of the the inner maniac occasionally overwhelming the polite, sedate veneer we often wear.

Perfect Virgo said...

Patry - our inner demons are unleashed behind the wheel! Yes, I tried to convey the sense of a primitive impulse and the return to quiet calm after the outburst.

Cocaine Jesus said...

radar love?
oh yes.
oh yes, yes, yes.

"The softly purring motor belies its age"
a vintage just like me?

i have just recently been given a ford. a focus. now it has to be said i am NOT a car man but i do like speed. (no not the drug, too old now). i did as you suggested. foot down and fffffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

clock spun like my bowels and a tank full of petrol spat out the exhaust like morning mist 'neath the harsh light of noon.

somewhere back on the M4 is my stomach. if anyone see's it please post it on.

fine post mate.

sirreene said...

baby you can drive my car beep beep...(it's a hybrid) I so loved that!!! I cannot hear the ambulance right behind me ~ my stereo is always blasting! My kids make me lower it.

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - look what your comment did to the shape of my blog!!! The long fuckinghell appears all on one line, nice one!

See, your Focus or my Mondeo can do it you just have to gun them! Next time I'm there I'll check the M4 for your entrails...

Sirreene - I might have known you'd live your life in the fast lane girl! I too twist the volume knob off my stereo... the doors bulge in time with the beat and I hear nothing else!

The Flea said...

I sure know the feeling Virgo. It's been a while for me -- now that I live about ten mins from the city centre.

I too learnt at 17 (as soon as I was legal) and I think all you non-drivers will never understand. Driving is wunderbar -- even if it's just cruising at a snail's pace.

sirreene said...

BTW, please do not stop wearing shorts, you never know when I may drop by for a little site seeing ;)

Perfect Virgo said...

Flea - Ah there you are! Two wheels ais of course my real love. The thrill of the bike makes even the car seem mundane.

Sirreene - I seldom wear anything beneath my shorts and they are of the loose and baggy variety. I often climb ladders or sit around with my legs forgetfully positioned so I'd better keep my eyes peeled for you!

Trudging said...

I love the road!

Perfect Virgo said...

Trudging - me too!

just sayin' said...

I officially learned to drive at 14 years old in the family wagon, a Plymouth Valiant w/pushbutton automatic transmission. Daddy was a volunteer fireman and had a siren installed on the car. I was allowed to drive him to fires, automobile accidents, and other small-town emergencies. I learned to drive fast well. Driving became my favorite way to spend time. Giving up my sports car (because of the MS) was probably the hardest thing to face about this stupid fucking disease.

It's a bitter pleasure to read other people write about the pleasure of driving.

Perfect Virgo said...

Morgan - driving to fires was definitely the way to learn to drive fast. Sorry you don't have the pleasure any more but I understand why you had to give up. I take nothing for granted so I wanted to wite about it.

mussolini said...

pv> that just gave me an orgasm! hahahahaha

Perfect Virgo said...

Mussolini - !!! You would enjoy the sensation of a ride on my motorbike, of that I feel sure...