Road rage is all the rage. As the UK’s roads clog up with summer holiday traffic jams tempers will inevitably flare. Road rage is not a new phenomenon however and has effected most generations since the invention ofthe motor car. As you can see in the Goofy Motor Mania cartoon from 1950 it was a common enough occurrence for Walt Disney to document it. In the 1984 cult film “Repo Man” a hippie character informs the protagonists that what is wrong with the world is driving. Driving makes you mad. Only when people stop driving cars will universal sanity be restored. I have to say I tend to agree with the hippie and can recount a firsthand experience of road rage which left me thinking that not only did driving make people mad; it also made them capable of extreme acts of stupidity.
This particular incident happened way back in the eighties and I was just embarking on a night out with my mate Mick and a couple of other buddies. We were all piled into his pride and joy; a MK 3 Cortina GXL in metallic brown with black vinyl roof. The cassette was in the Harry Moss hi-fi and we were good to go, it was Saturday night and we were headed into town.
Now Mick loved this car, washing and polishing on a Sunday and adding all manner of tasteless accessories to make this far from unique car somewhat more so. He had also perfected the art of steering with his knees while feigning passing out, what a hoot! What fun we had! But this particular Cortina had a flaw, something Mick was used to dealing with and hadn’t seen fit to repair. It may have been as a result of his fitting an oversized “luxury” gearstick knob but the fault that Mick had been ignoring was about to give all his passengers a heart stopping moment of terror.
The evening starts off innocuously enough, driving down a country lane listening to one of Mick’s dreadful “mix tapes” and talking, frankly, a lot of nonsense when a car approaching in the other direction has its lights on full beam. Irritated, Mick flashes his lights rhythmically and shouts an obscenity out of the opened window as the two cars pass. We all laugh and I look out the rear window to see if the “idiot” got the message. Well he’d certainly turned his full beam off. I could see this quite clearly because he had done a u-turn and was now accelerating after us. Still, not overly concerned, after all our car was filled with four blokes so what’s the worst that could happen?
I Told Mick that the driver he’d just insulted was now following us and we all had a nervous little laugh. However the laughs soon disappeared as the car got nearer. It was crammed full of what could only be described as five, big, nasty looking skinheads. Mick had managed to insult a posse of the locally notorious skinhead gang, which in our town was the equivalent of going up to Marlon Brando’s character in the Godfather and calling him a fat mumbling poof!
So things had now turned rather serious and the hilarity of a few moments earlier had made way for feelings of rising terror. First the recriminations; “why did you do it, you moron?!” followed by the pleading “what are we going to do?!” and finally acceptance “we’re dead”.
The Cortina was holding its own against the skinheadmobile (a Vauxhall Victor in bright yellow) and as we wheel spun out of a junction Mick took us on a detour, heading to a neighbouring village. Eventually the Victor’s bigger engine began to make its presence felt and the big yellow skinheadmobile overtook us on a straight and then slammed on its brakes. The Cortina followed suit and as we were all thinking about our next move the Victor’s big yellow driver’s door opened and out got a fine example of skinheadhood. Tall, tattoo clad and built like the proverbial brick shithouse he began to run towards us snarling. It would perhaps be an understatement to suggest he was a bit angry.
Mick slammed the car into reverse and we sped, backwards up the road. Two others had now emerged from the Victor and had joined in the chase but as soon as they realized we were gaining on them they turned tail back to their car to continue the pursuit. Mick turned the Cortina around and we sped back to the junction. Things were now looking a bit better for us. The skinheads had to run back to the car turn it around and catch up with us again so we had gained a few minutes and, most importantly, the advantage. We could zig zag our way back home and hopefully shake off our tail.
Then it happend. As Mick brought the Cortina to a halt at the junction ready to speed off down the main A road he went to put it in first gear and, well, the gear stick came off in his hand, clean away and he was now holding it aloft like a weapon while the Cortina hummed uselessly in neutral.
You can imagine the shouts and screams and we implored Mick to get it reacquainted with the gear box as quickly as possible. Of course Mick could probably have carried out the manoeuvre in a matter of seconds under normal circumstances but tonight it wasn’t happening.
Sure enough we were still there when the skinheads pulled up behind us. The driver once again emerged from the vehicle and approached the Cortina’s driver side door, seemingly a little surprised to see us just sitting there. As he began smacking the glass, snarling and threatening he noticed the gearstick in Mick’s hand. Mick unwound the window slightly and the big bad skinhead snarled “you’re not going to try and hit me with that are you?” To which Mick replied, somewhat meekly, “no it just came off in my hand”.
Instead of dragging Mick out of the car by his collar through the gap in the window and then giving him, and us, a good kicking the skinhead just fell about laughing. As he was joined by the rest of his crew they all creased up too. They were even able to assist us in fixing the problem and gave us a cheery wave as they drove off to continue their evening of skinhead related activities.
We on the other hand drove to the nearest pub, calmed our nerves and took the piss out of Mick for the rest of the evening.