The worst driver I know was explaining a few days ago that it was just bad luck that he had managed to write off every car he ever owned. The incident he chose to illustrate this relentless misfortune took place when he was in a car park, and scraped a bollard down the entire length of one side of his car, and had to have every panel on that side replaced.
Thousands of pounds of damage, and who could have avoided it? Who, apart from by checking round the car before he got in it, looking in his mirrors while he put the car in motion, travelling as slow as the claustrophobic environment of a car park would suggest was advisable, or bringing the car to a sudden stop as soon as the ear-wrenching sound of screaming metal first started to come from their own vehicle, could have avoided it?
What stunned me most was that this was left unchallenged by the person talking to him (maybe the third worst driver I know.) It reminded me of the (only slightly) exaggerated stories K. used to tell about her time at a building firm. People in the office would discuss the terrible things that happened to people, generally as a result of the sometimes almost marvellously idiotic things immediately prior to each horrific tragedy. But each story would end with this weird ned fatalism, variations on a theme of “when it’s your time, it’s your time.” It was though an expressed but unfounded fear – the fickle finger of fate – was being used to smother entirely a denied but entirely comprehensible fear – that, by thinking about how one’s behaviour might lead to unfavourable outcomes, one might be forced to act in a different way; to learn other behaviours; to abandon that blithe state of unexamination that most stout Englishmen crave.
The unexamined privilege of car drivers, like the related but distinct privileges of being white, or male, or a meat eater; or indeed of being anyone in the demographic in control of the common cultural currency: are all the stronger for being unexamined. But if you’re honest, and thoughtful, and don’t take a shrug for an answer, you sometimes find that suddenly the full force of its absurdity will hit you. It will strike you with all the weight of a bollard that you swore was just sitting way over there a minute ago. But then, when it’s your time, it’s your time.