Monday, 22 October 2012
You are driving on a motorway to visit an out-of-town relative (if you don't like any of your relatives, perhaps imagine you are commuting to work - the key is the motorway, though it happens on A roads too). You start to see brake lights in the distance. You notice the traffic slowing. The last chance to avoid this traffic slips by your window, 3 lanes to the left as you have failed to decide quickly enough whether to come off at the junction and freestyle it through the back roads and are instead trapped in the outside lane by a procession of increasingly tightly-packed decelerating cars. You come to a halt. You issue an expletive and look at your watch. Okay, that's life. You have hit traffic.
You notice that on the other side of the road everything is flowing just fine. You wonder what is going on up ahead? Roadworks? An accident? Well, you're going to find out in an hour and 1.6 miles or so. It's an accident. That's a shame. "I hope everyone's ok" you think. Or if you're now running very late or have screaming children in the back seat accompanying your increased blood pressure, you may think less generously along the lines of "why can't whatever numbskull up ahead drive properly (like me, the best driver in the whole world) - that's an hour of my life I'm never getting back because he can't mirror, signal, manoeuvre" or something along those lines.
Then as you draw closer you notice that the flashing lights are not on your side of the carriageway. Nope. They are restricted to the hard shoulder 40 metres to your right, next to a car with a crumpled bonnet and a car with a smashed tailgate. "Has the accident been so violent as to throw a lorry fully across the central reservation and into 3 of the 4 lanes (motorway dependant) on your side of the road? Surely that is the only reason we have been crawling at a speed not fast enough to show up on either the speedo or the GPS? " you think.
Except you don't.
Because you now know why your side of the road is doing a mile per hour: So everyone can get a good look at what remains of the accident on the other side of the road.
Yup, it is generally the way that an accident screws up the side of the road it is on for a short amount of time whilst they move it out of the way, and then a far longer time on the other side whilst everyone rubbernecks on the way past. What a bunch of belters we are. Are we checking to see if it is anyone we know? Who'd want to find out that way anyway? Are we thinking perhaps we will identify the very situation our unique set of skills were put together for by God himself, ready to swerve to the hard shoulder and sprint across the carriageways to save the day?
Nope, we're all just a bunch of really nosey bastards. We want to look for the same reasons we watch hilarious home videos of chairs collapsing under brides, dancing troupes can canning off the side of a stage, teenage would-be stuntmen just failing to clear the swimming pool in a single bound and why we like sitting on ski lifts watching the slopes below hoping people will fall over. Schadenfreude. Basically we're all gits.
All the You Tube-ing though costs us nothing. Yet as a collective mass, with slowing down to check on someone else's misfortune, we contribute to our own misery - the traffic jam. It's life's way of paying you back for being a git. Problem is, it catches out everyone on the road, git or not. Even the people like me, who don't feel the need to check out what happened. So, in my totally blameless case, non-git and un-nosey bastard that I am, when I pass the accident the reason I am slowing down is just to check what it was that other people wanted to look at thereby costing me an hour of my life. The gits. If only there were more people like me...