Today I took what should have been a pretty nondescript journey into High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. My friend had called and asked me to get her a birthday card for someone and, as requests go, this is a pretty easy one to carry out. All I had to do was drive into town, buy a birthday card (I knew which one and where from as we’d been in the shop a couple of weeks ago), drive home and then relax in the garden as the sun shone down to the tune of peaceful bird song. As uneventful trips go, this was pretty textbook. Except it wasn’t uneventful. Something went on that involved members of the opposite sex and which has possibly changed my perception of them. Forever.
So, I got into the car and set off. Not a problem. I parked up and headed to the shop. Again, not a problem. In the shop I got to the card section but, to my horror, the card had gone. Umm… hold on for a second. This isn’t really relevant. So, here’s what happened in a nutshell (or, rather, a shopping centre): the assistant said the card will come in-store tomorrow; I bought sweets; I got back in the car; I left the centre; I approached a roundabout. That brings us up to where we need to be. Thank you.
So, as I approached the aforementioned roundabout, my car shuddered to a halt. Actually, “shuddered” is far too descriptive an action to attach to my car. My car “choked” to a halt. However, luckily for me, the place it decided to rest was upon double yellow lines. On a roundabout. Opposite a police station. In rush hour. I think you’ll agree that any one of those scenarios wouldn’t have been great; all three are pretty damn unlucky!
There is one, minor detail I am forgetting here. Literally. You see, for all I was on a roundabout, illegally parked and opposite the home of people who are more than aware of how to catch people who do illegal things (even when they’re not parked on their actual doorstep), something else added to the feeling of impending panic that was descending. That something was actually a someone. Because what I’ve neglected to mention here is this: I was looking after my friends’ 7 year old boy and he was in the back of the car. The one time I take him out in the car (ok, 3rd time but I wanted to add to the drama) and it breaks down. If we were playing Worst Break Down Scenario Top Trumps, this would easily be top card.
Generally, by my very nature, I am a laid back, relaxed, positive person. I think about things. I look on the bright side of life. I don’t stress. I don’t panic. That is, I don’t panic unless my car (which has a broken steering lock so there are wires hanging down to suggest that I’ve actually stolen it. I haven’t) breaks down illegally at rush hour on a roundabout opposite a police station with the most precious thing in my friends’ life on the back seat. When that happens, I now know, I make the evacuation of Titanic look like a group of pensioners stepping of the Guided Tour of York bus on pension day. In fact, and this may have been a stress related, but I could have sworn I saw Leonardo DiCaprio clinging on to a bit of wood under the sign giving directions to Slough.
“Keep calm. Just, keep calm”, I said to my friends’ son in that calm way that fills your voice with every confidence that there is nothing to be calm about.
“Why?”, he replied.
“My car has broken down,” I told him, “and we’re going to have to get out but don’t worry because the police are just there”.
“Are you going to go to prison?” he asked.
“Not if we stay calm”, I answered. Inexplicably.
“Is that Leonardo DiCaprio underneath that sign for Slough?” he may have asked.
I don’t actually know if he did because within seconds I was out of my car door, opening his, whisking him out of the seat and over a nearby railing and onto the safety of a pavement. What a relief! Crowds cheered. Women threw underwear. Men slapped my back; an elderly woman baked me a cake and a man without legs suddenly found the inspiration to tap dance. Or, possibly… nothing happened; my son’s friend just asked to play with his Sonic toy and I called the breakdown services.
It is at this juncture that I should point out (finally) the relevance of this blog’s title. As I stood, roadside and waiting for assistance with a 7 year old, I witnessed a difference in men and women. Then I noticed the difference between women and women. Men, for example, walk or drove by and looked at the car: either sporting a grin of self-satisfaction that it hadn’t happened to them; or a look of sympathy which denoted that brotherhood is united in the constant let down it suffers from automobiles. Women, however, are different. Not only to men; to each other.
It was cold and the little fella was resting on my shoulder as he played merrily; oblivious to the world around him. And what a world it was. There were, I counted, four different types of women driver passing by us constantly during the 30 minutes or so we were stood there. They are:
Type 1 – The woman driver who looks over, craves to know what’s going on, then accidentally makes eye contact and stares, intensely, straight ahead.
Type 2 – The woman driver who looks over, sees the broken down car, looks at y0u with a cute child, makes eye contact and smiles in a friendly manner as she pulls a sort of “awww…” expression before she drives away.
Type 3 – The woman driver who looks over, makes eye contact, thinks you’re checking her out (well, to be fair..) and so throws you a look which says “as if” before taking a drag on her cigarette as she roars off to the next red light (which, incidentally, clashes with her more-often-than-not orange complexion).
Type 4 – The woman driver who looks at your car, makes eye contact, smiles, sees you’re with a child, smiles again and then coyly bites her lip as she drives off, smiling.
I like to think of myself as an honest person and so I shall be completely honest here: I like Women Driver Types 2 & 4. I think Woman Driver Type 2 and I could be good friends. We’d hang out and have coffee as I wax lyrical about my flourishing feelings for a Woman Driver Type 4. Woman Driver Type 2 would like that because, I imagine, she’s happily married and sees me as a companion in that brotherly type way. In fact, Woman Driver Type 2’s husband and I would probably have a night in with a few beers and play X-box as she goes for a night out with fellow Woman Driver Type 2, um, types.
Woman Driver Type 4 has a fun sense of humour. One of the Woman Driver Type 4 drivers looked at me, then looked at my car, then looked back at me and pulled a face which said, in a good natured yet mocking way, “unlucky”. The cheeky minx. I like Woman Driver Type 4 because she’s be supportive and encouraging; but she’d reel me in before I got too big for my boots. I need that sometimes. Woman Driver Type 4, I have to admit, is someone I imagine I’d probably be quite smitten with.
As it was, I didn’t actually talk to any of these Women Driver Types. For one, they tended to be in cars on a busy roundabout at traffic lights where they couldn’t park anyway because it was double yellow lines and the police were probably watching from across the road. Plus, they’d seen my car. Actually, only Women Driver Type 3 would be bothered that I have a slightly, neigh, very rubbish car. They would probably make me drop them off around the corner from the bar they were about to drink Jagerbombs in so that their friends and nearby “fitties” wouldn’t see them. Fair enough; we can’t all be the same now, can we?
In the end, minutes before the breakdown team were due to come, I tried the car and it started. I bundled my friends’ boy into his car seat with the intense focus of a major about to take his troops into battle and we crawled off into the distance. Oh, and by “the distance” I actually mean “the nearest petrol station”. It turns out that my petrol gauge is a bit dodgy and, despite it claiming I had a quarter of a tank worth of petrol in there; it actually had none. Also, because I was only nipping out to buy a £2.50 birthday card, I only had £4.55 in change in my pocket (and my wallet was at home) and so we tootled to the petrol station where I blew my entire £4.55 on unleaded petrol. In the word’s of my small accomplice, “How embarrassing!!”.
So, Here’s What I Have Learnt Today: Somewhere there’s a someone for everyone; you just have to hope they stop and pull over if you’re ever broken down on a roundabout.
If you haven’t already, I hope you find you Women Driver Type Soon (or your male equivalent) and share happy journeys together without breaking down in awkward circumstances. As the song goes (not really): My Car Will Go On.