I give my friends lifts home sometimes and they say, as we cruise along night-emptied roads illuminated yolky-yellow by streetlamps, that I’m a bit road ragey. We have a bit of a laugh about it – all in good spirit of course; after all, I can recognise a joke. The joke is that, really, I am not ragey. I am, in fact, quite mild, in a jumpery, professorial way. I lack the emotional range for rage, I’m afraid. If I was a curry, I would be a butter chicken, but even then I am too mild to even be a curry – I’m more like a McVitie’s digestive biscuit, without the chocolate.
But even the most chocolate-less digestive biscuit of people will get irked when driving. Everyone does, it’s inevitable. It’s not that I dislike driving, because I don’t. It’s clichéd, I know, but it really is liberating to be the agent of your own journeys, even if it’s just a run to the Woolies up the road for more milk. Singing along to the radio is also better when no one else is there to judge. It just sucks that I have to share the road with all the miserable incompetents who have slipped under the otherwise panoptic radar of Highway Patrol. Letting out the occasional surprised “fuck!” and the even rarer warning bip bip of the horn as I execute a convoluted series of evasive manoeuvres to avoid people who don’t signal, drive straight, or give me right of way at roundabouts is understandable, really. It hardly makes me one of those hoons Seven News is so fond of decrying.
The worst drivers, of course, are the ones who notice you behind the wheel and start hollering provocations. I can never tell if it’s because I’m a) female, b) Asian, c) a P-plater, or d) all of the above, but it is trying. Driving, really, should be impersonal. It is always irksome to have your existence acknowledged by a stranger, let alone an aggro one behind the wheel. Which brings me to this event, right. It’s quite late at night, and I’m just driving home, minding my own business, and I get to this stretch of road which is surrounded by bush all around. There are streetlamps and I’ve got my own headlamps on, but the eucalypts absorb all of their light into black canopies. I have the window cracked open, just enough to let in the frigid black air and the rustle of bush nightlife. I have a Pixies album plugged into the stereo.
I don’t notice the car in front of me until I’m about seven metres away, and by the time I finish braking, I’m about a metre away. It’s just squatting there, in the middle of the road with its lights off. Displeased, I prepare to reverse and scoot around, but then I can see the dim interior light sputter on through the back window. The driver must have heard me braking. What are you doing? Get out of my way, I honk.
That seems to do it for him. The “him”’ in question is some dishevelled bogan dude with mown hair who’s wearing a white singlet with prints of gang signs or something on the front, spilling out of the passenger door. He has precisely one thong on. I know he’s bogan because I can hear the accent when he starts yelling at me for being a negligent driver for stopping behind him – except in words of one syllable, many of which contain four letters. It is ironic, really, because I am not the one who’s been sitting willy-nilly in the back of their dark car in the middle of a dark road. I check that my doors are locked.
He can’t actually see me at first, because my headlamps are in his eyes. He gets between our cars and leans up the bonnet, squints into the tinted windshield. That’s when he sees me. My face offends him; it sets him off afresh. He yells about bad Asian drivers and his country being overrun with immigrants. He makes inappropriate sexual comments, some violent. He rants about the narcissism of millennials. I don’t have time for this shit.
I am not road ragey. I’m very calm when I do it. I hit the accelerator. I shift the gear to R, then back to D, hit the accelerator again. R, D, accelerate. R, D, accelerate.
I don’t count how many times I did it, but by the end of it he’s slid off the bonnet and is a bit of an unsavoury, pulpy mess across the now-concave boot of his car. The oddly human-sounding screeching which his car’s been emitting trails off after a minute or two. Wave of mutilation, wave of mutilation, Black Francis sings on the stereo. Unfortunately, my mum’s car’s a write-off. I phone NRMA Roadside Assistance.