ON THE ROAD

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - DOMINIC RYAN

NOTH­ING screams mid-life cri­sis quite as shrilly as a 40-some­thing driv­ing a Subaru Im­preza branded with that “If in doubt, flat out!” sticker. Well, okay, this is trumped by any­one aged over 40 who buys a mo­tor­cy­cle with as­pi­ra­tions of look­ing like Steve McQueen . . . only to be spot­ted shortly af­ter­wards in a lay-by, pale, pant­ing for breath and phon­ing a friend to please come pick them up.

While the sticker may be a re­spect­ful nod to the late Colin McRae, one of the world’s great­est ever rally driv­ers, slap­ping his mantra un­der­neath a rear spoiler stolen from a bi­plane on a car used only for the school run just looks silly.

Have these peo­ple never won­dered why their bet­ter half is al­ways scrouched down in mor­ti­fi­ca­tion in the pas­sen­ger seat?

Like it or loathe it, we live in a cul­ture that con­stantly judges us by our choice of car – and it’s dif­fi­cult not to find our full me­tal jacket rightly or wrongly defin­ing who we are, what we do and even how suc­cess­ful we pre­tend to be at it.

And so our pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tions dic­tate that Land Rovers should only be driven by farm­ers and must be booed on the high street, Mon­deos are the se­cond home of trav­el­ling sales­peo­ple and all BMWs . . . well their own­ers of­ten find their hand­i­work mim­icked in the most de­scrip­tive and cruel fashion.

Of course, our choice of ve­hi­cle should not al­ways be some­thing to be ashamed of.

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know my first car was an MG Mid­get whose body­work was so frail it con­stantly threat­ened to dis­as­sem­ble it­self into a clat­ter­ing puff of snot-green me­tal shards and blue smoke.

Whether the sight of my clown car sug­gested a con­gen­i­tal love of the MG mar­que or a Freudian re­flec­tion of my per­sonal self-es­teem, I can­not say.

But what is cer­tain is that in those days I reg­u­larly en­joyed the daily reaf­firmed sense of ca­ma­raderie in­stilled by meet­ing other MG own­ers.

Spy­ing an oc­tag­o­nal badge while rolling along on life’s high­way would al­ways re­sult in an in­vol­un­tary burst of head­light flash­ing and a know­ing nod of the head. It even got to the point of ac­ces­soris­ing. My style didn’t quite match the likes of the clob­ber from our friends at Hack­ett ( see right) – in fair­ness, my mo­tor­ing bud­get has never quite made it to an As­ton Martin ei­ther. No, my sar­to­rial zenith was climbing from the cock­pit in the boho chic of cor­duroy MG driv­ing jacket topped off with a cap given to my dad by Jackie Ste­wart – worn proudly by yours truly un­til lost to the charms of a flame-haired Gal­way girl in a Glas­gow bar!

From such days of au­to­mo­bile el­e­gance, sadly, it seems we no longer take much pride at all in our ap­pear­ance be­hind the wheel. In fact, the find­ings of a poll re­leased this week by the UK’s big­gest road safety char­ity, IAM Road­S­mart, re­veal a rather star­tling dis­re­gard for how other mo­torists see us.

Be­yond the bad habits of smok­ing, eat­ing and drink­ing at the helm, the sur­vey of more than 2300 driv­ers sug­gests the driv­ing seat is of­ten used as an ex­ten­sion of the bath­room.

Yes, in­cred­i­bly, a wide range of per­sonal groom­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are tak­ing place, mostly on the morn­ing com­mute.

Bar­net styling was wit­nessed by 55% of re­spon­dents and shav­ing by 24% – we as­sume these were blokes us­ing elec­tric shavers, rather than a hair-rais­ing dis­play of ladies’ legs. Not sur­pris­ingly, more than half (57%) said their driv­ing had been ad­versely af­fected by such dis­trac­tions.

Sud­denly, I don’t feel so guilty about be­ing seen at the wheel play­ing Spot The Sheep with my Col­lie dog Star.

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