“So” – enthused the Hi-Di-Hi homage to Ruth Madoc somewhere close to purgatory’s end – ‘can we all remember what C.O.A.S.T. stands for and why it’s important’ /deathly silence/Hint of desperation/’Anybody’/continued tumbleweeds/’oh come on, ALEX you’ve had a lot to say for yourself, help the group out here’.
Oh Hello. To your left a barrel overflowing with fish. To your right a rifle. ‘Yes indeed Lynne, I can do exactly that, C.O.A.S.T. you say? Yes, Yes, it’s coming to me, hang on, ah right I remember now ‘Completely Obvious and Stupendously Trivial’ is that it?’
Apparently not. Still it engaged the room in a way she’d entirely fail to do once they realised laughing at inappropriate comments wouldn’t constitute a fail*. As a group we’d been letting ourselves down from the first minute. That was the point at which we were asked to share with our speeding colleagues a character slice illuminating vehicle of choice/License held/ annual mileage.
The response was telling. It went something like this: ‘tractor/65 years/100‘ except for a couple of sales-y types who’d been caught overtaking cows at inappropriate speeds. The question could have been more easily answered before the course started as hemp-dressed gentlemen of increasingly antiquity fell out of agricultural vehicles, puffing on desperate dog ends, and engaging in preventative tractor maintenance utilising the cab based hammer easily reached for the job.
My initial attempt at studied indifference quickly breached the boredom threshold leading to a terribly pretentious diatribe on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to answer the question of ‘What makes us speed?‘. I was pretty much a marked man by then, even before a further black mark was inked in during the oh-so-collaborative session on what the group wanted to get out of the course.
23 out of 24 participants answered with the kind of refreshing honesty missing from sociality baselined norms. ‘I don’t want to come here again/I have fields to plow/cows to overtake/innocent animals to molester‘. The wanker previously identified as pretentious proffered a left field ‘well all motorists are tossers, so I’d like to talk about how they try and kill road cyclists‘ which endeared me to the room in a way that – say – baring my arse and wiggling it suggestively may have failed to do.
Such an action became an option tho when two hours in we’d been hit with multiple guilt trips under the auspices of re-education. The sad thing is this stuff kind of makes sense. Don’t create resentment, instead foster understanding. Charge the same but replace points on your license with techniques for safety. Delve into the shadowy world of unintended consequences. Put the worse case out there and pull back on how action – rather than reaction – can save a life. It’s pretty compelling stuff, even delivered in a paint-by-numbers intellectually-diminishing signposted kind of way.
There’s even some physics. Put Einstein in the drivers seat and we have a set of motion forces which brook no argument. Braking hard at 20MPH gives you time not to kill someone. Ten miles an hour more and you’re on the potential morgue edge of the bell curve. This is good stuff, well explained and backed up by mostly entirely compelling statistics. Except for the ones around ‘80% of accidents are caused by speed’ which trigger my bloody-mindedness gland and before anyone can say ‘will you shut the fuck up?‘ we’re 10 minutes into a discussion on 80% more than what? A sausage?
So many black marks, the second presenter – a lovely round man intoning sound advice through a thick black country accident – also singled me out for some lightweight peer humiliation. And because I am an arse, my response to the love of speed went something like this ‘Ray – it’s like religion. No really it is. On being almost married three non negotiable church services suggested one should behave in a St Peter gates-of-heaven kind of way to ensure heavenly continuation. Honestly, what happens if they’re just making it up? How pissed off would you be if it’s rats all the way down?** Speeding is like that, the consequences are bloody terrible but what are the chances eh?‘
This isn’t really my world view. Well it is on religion – less so on speeding but i’ll be fucked if some government approved script delivered 250 times a year by bored trainers who make the right noises but cannot passionately believe what they are forced to pedal can be genuinely habit changing. 23 people said it was, and for all of them it was for about the 100 yards from the correction centre before encountering the kind of frustration that too many cars on too few roads generates every minute.
We all left without any points and a failsafe approach to understanding road signs but not too much else. The right noises were made but my guess is actions failed to follow. It is a curse tho because now I cannot stop at any junction without hearing the Ruth-Clone intoning ‘tarmac and tyres‘ gapping the car in front. Third gear in thirty zones and a silent fuck you to the tailgaters revving behind. Real care when the 3-d venn diagram of urban, schools and kicking out time intersect. An appreciation of what passive-agressiveness feels like if some asshole sits two feet behind your bumper.
It’s a similar refusal to believe marketing works. What do beans mean again? Still in a mighty explosion of the irony meter, I ragged our little sports car like a total bastard when the course ended. So broke every rule and speed limit to ensure my participation in a static cycling class some fifteen miles distant.
Still four hours of my life I’ll never get back. One second of extra thought means a ball-chasing child might get about seventy years.
Probably worth it then.
* Failing in this context is hard. Really hard. The guy next to me was a) deaf and b) asleep the entire session and he passed out with flying colours.
** Or turtles if you like your philosophy. Although they rarely eat their way into coffins. So I went with rats.