I have never been the world’s best driver, but it is not my lack of basic driving ability to which I refer here. More specifically, it is the fact that I am so bad at being able to sound a car’s horn properly whenever the need arises.
My driving instructor Kevin – who was so loathsome and unattractive, I decided on our introductory meeting that they must have broken the mould before he left the factory that produced him – never actually thought it necessary to devote any time during our lessons together in which to instruct me in its effective and proper use. Therefore, I would feel more than confident in my position if I were to suggest that it is he, and not yours truly, who is responsible for this particular inadequacy of mine.
I am, on the other hand, an expert when it comes to sounding the horn at inappropriate times or when I did not actually mean to do so.
I am reminded of a particular occasion when I was fortunate to have with me in the car a pretty date on a hot sunny afternoon. I remember huffing and puffing away in embarrassment as I attempted with elaborate and manic movements of my sweaty hands to open for her the passenger side window by repeatedly depressing the small button that activated the car horn. I was simply trying to impress her by being a gentleman but I fancy she thought I was mad. I was doing my best for her but I think I actually rather frightened her. I dropped her back at her parents’ house an hour later and that was the last I ever saw of her.
I also recall, with the greatest regret, another instance when I was happily driving along minding my own business when I saw a male acquaintance of mine coming out of the Woolworth’s store in Nottingham. In order to attract his attention and to alert him to my presence, I sounded the horn of my little car with all the eager enthusiasm I could muster. An old woman with very heavy shopping bags who was shuffling along behind him suddenly launched herself about two feet into the air and then collapsed in a heap on the pavement as she fell back to earth. Her shopping was escaping everywhere. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and I could see dozens of oranges and potatoes rolling down the busy hill as concerned passers-by began attending to her. As I turned the corner and merged with traffic coming from the roundabout, I could just make out through the back window a fat, hairy man who was shaking his fist at me and shouting something that was probably quite insalubrious.
My biggest problem with a car’s hooter, however, is that whenever the situation demands its urgent employ, I can never find the damn thing. I always manage to effect the use of another, completely inappropriate instrument or to activate a function of the vehicle’s workings that renders the situation worse.
‘Get out of my way, idiot!’ I once demanded of the young driver of a colourful and stylishly-customised Ford Focus. He did not notice my intense protestations however, as, instead of sounding my horn, I found myself angrily activating the windscreen washers. (Although I have found this to be a thoroughly ineffective method of issuing a warning to other drivers in numerous situations on the road, I do for some reason always seem to find myself doing it, and I must point out that, as an unexpected bonus, my windscreen is always very clean.)
Another time, I tried to sound my horn as I shouted at a dangerous female motorist who was overtaking me into oncoming traffic. ‘You can’t do that, you woman clown!’ I yelled. She paid me no heed, however, as I had merely managed to pop the hood of my car thus obscuring my view of the road ahead. In an elaborate – though skilfully executed – emergency manoeuvre, I was forced to pull over on to the grass verge and have a little cry.
By far the most embarrassing occasion was when I noticed a group of teenagers who were about to run out into the road in front of me. To alert them to the inherent danger of doing such a thing, I tried to warn them by immediately – and with expert precision – pulling a handy lever that had been thoughtfully positioned on my left-hand side by the car’s designers. To my surprise, my seat suddenly fell loose and completely reclined. In the end, the youngsters elected not to step into my path and stayed safely on the pavement as I sailed by, lying down almost completely flat on my back with only the very top of my haircut visible through the car’s side window.