Way way back I had a provisional driving licence but I never got around to actually learning to drive. I delivered milk on a Sunday & surprisingly you were deemed capable of pointing a large electric vehicle in the right direction, on a real road, with no previous experience. My route took me out of town to a couple of villages & it was a good thing that the float knew the way because at 6 a.m. on a Sunday I was likely to be asleep at the wheel. My girlfriend lived in one of these burgs. She taught Sunday School at the church (Really !), I would give her & some of the kids a mild ride in my 3-wheeled wagon. I’m guessing that this would be frowned upon by the dairy & possibly against the law. I liked the job, every day I got the wheels, the empty glass bottles & myself back unscathed was quite a big deal.
Any road up, my family didn’t own a car until after I left home. Dad used the redundancy money he received when his “job for life” became economically unviable. He later upgraded with the compensation he got for the occupational lung disease which killed him before he was 70…the working life eh ? I spent the next 30 years living in cities & joined the twice-daily commotion of rush hour commuter confusion. This metropolitan mayhem got old fast but the more private alternative to public transport seemed no more attractive, all of us, being driven on the bus or driving themselves were in the same dreary boat.Of course I knew people who were car owners, good folk who were kind enough to allow me to accompany them on their journeys. More than that, in fact I gave up my virginity to a lovely young woman in the back of a friend’s Ford Cortina estate. Thanks for the loan Dave.
Yeah ! Like Iggy, I am the Passenger. Happy to be riding shotgun & never interfering because I have no idea or opinion about what goes on after the turning of the key. Instead I try & be the best fellow traveller around. I can read a map, select a killer playlist, talk up a storm to keep you awake or just shut up, take care of the catering & roll up a doobie in the dark. Let’s see your sat-nav do that. This combination of Jeeves & Dr Gonzo seems to be what is desirable from the ideal passenger…maybe it’s the company I keep. I’ve been the minder/muscle on cocaine deliveries, the guy who threatened to kill me in a Tesco car park in Leeds put me off that game. I love treks across continental Europe because it’s an rare opportunity to experience the driver’s eye view of the road. Sacre Bleu ! No wonder I don’t drive.
“The more you drive, the less intelligent you are”, says Miller in “Repo Man” (1984). Now Miller is an acid-fried hippie burn out but some of my best friends are a little…well, y’know & I’m not about to take the risk that he may be right. Have you seen those men-but-still boys who present “Top Gear” ? Makes you think. My friend Martin, one of the most considerate & insouciant humans I know, undergoes a Hulkian transformation when he’s behind a wheel. I am always shocked by this when I travel with him. I can bore for Britain on many subjects but I am excluded from the “what do you drive ?” petrolhead small talk. I get to walk away from any discussion anywhere about shock absorbers, spark plugs, the best way to negotiate every town’s one-way system & that’s the way I like it.
The infernal combustion engine, that’s some invention. Congesting our towns & cities, a 6-lane network of concrete & tarmac imposed in the name of progress across any bucolic bailiwick. Urban public transport is left to the lumpen while the beautiful National Railway Museum in York is a poignant memorial to a superannuated technology. The automobile won. Henry Ford’s assembly line aimed to put the world on wheels & mass production is pointless without mass consumption & that’s the only reason you own all this crap that your grandparents never had. Cars are still sold with ridiculous associations to “freedom” & “individuality”, constructs that have no relation to the stuff you buy so fuck that noise. The primacy of the car has made the Western world dependant on a cheap, plentiful supply of gasoline…that’s working out well !
Unlike the Buzzcocks I don’t hate cars, fast of otherwise. I quite like the red ones ! My boss would give me a lift home in his Rolls Royce. You were probably a gangster if you drove a Roller through the city’s ripped backsides of the Old Kent Road & I made sure that my street knew we were coming. I just never got around to learning how to use them & they seemed to take up to much time, energy & money. I enjoy walking, I talk about the terrible weather to the old ladies at the bus stop, try to put them right about their casual racism & this July I get my free bus pass so that’s it for me then.
It’s probably a little ingenuous (who me ?) that I am still gratified when someone turns up in their motor to run me about. It has never been an everyday thing & I would never impose on a friend to provide a free taxi service. What’s today…Friday ? I was in a car on Tuesday & it’s a possibility that I will be again over the weekend…what a life I lead ! I now live in an industrial town surrounded by villages undisturbed since the Viking incursion. My nephew Dan & I get mobile & explore market towns stranded by the Industrial Revolution, picnic in the rolling Wolds, visit an undeveloped perfect beach or make a 30 mile round trip for the best ice cream in the county. I’m the guy being driven around, head out of the window like a puppy, expecting good things around each corner. We make a good team, there’s a division of labour going on. Dan likes to drive & I am very happy being the Passenger.