How often do your forget to take your shoes off before getting into the bath?
And when you are eating, how often do you forget to open your mouth to let the food in?
Do you sometimes breathe out, and then breathe out again, and yet again, and wonder why you are starting to feel faint?
Now, if you think those are silly questions, try these: When you are driving and want to change lanes or turn, do you ever forget to check your mirror and indicate? At night, when another car is approaching from the opposite direction, or going the same way as you just in front, how often do you forget to dip your lights?
Those questions should be just as silly. Both sets of questions refer to skills which are well south of rocket science and which should be an automatic reflex for anybody old enough to manage a solo visit to the toilet.
Yet for some bizarre reason, we do not see them that way.
Imagine you are invited out to dinner and your host greets you at the door with water squelching out of his shoes. He then helps himself to a drink without offering you one.
During dinner he repeatedly loads up his fork with food, lifts it to his face but keeps his mouth firmly shut and instead stuffs the meat-and-two-veg up his nose.
When ushering you through the sitting room for a cup of coffee afterwards, he pushes you out of the way, places the coffee tray on the chair you were about to sit on, hands you a cup and then pours the coffee on the carpet.
He then offers you some biscuits on the far side of the room but promptly turns the lights out. Finally, he collapses to the floor in a gasping heap, having forgotten to take an inward breath for the past five minutes.
This sort of behaviour would qualify, in any social circle, as odd. This guy doesn’t need a lesson in etiquette – he needs either a doctor or some social therapy involving a fist and his face.
Even though his deranged attitude and actions do not inflict any real harm or place the guest in serious danger, they would be unanimously and fiercely voted as unacceptable in any society.
Yet add a car to the picture, and conduct that is just as aberrant, and also lacking in the most basic functional competence or any vestige of manners, suddenly becomes…normal! And now the odd behaviour weighs two tonnes! You can attend a “motor” party at any time on any day of the week, where many present behave like this almost constantly. It’s called “commuting.”
Now a confession. I actually wrote this description 13 years ago and , despite an enormous increase in traffic density and a torrent of newcomers to the steering wheel since then, road conduct has got “better.” So have many of the roads. And quite a lot of the cars.
We are, somehow albeit slowly, heading in the right direction. But being “less bad” does not yet mean “good” so this is a reminder of where we were…and how far we still have to go in the quest for motoring competence and courtesy.