June 17th 2006
I dialled the freephone number I’d seen on the back of the lorry, the number I’d been invited to ring if I had anything I wished to say about the manner in which the vehicle was being driven.
“Well Driven,â€ said the young woman on the other end of the line. â€œHow may I help you?â€
Well you can start by not spouting a load of transatlantic claptrap when answering the phone, I thought, but satisfied myself by giving her my name and the registration number of the lorry in question, and to inform her that I wished to talk about it.
“Is it a complaint?” she said.
“Well of course it’s a complaint,” I said testily, Captain Mainwaring to her Private Pike, “Why else would I be ringing?”
“Some people call to praise the driver’s driving,” she replied, in a tone that implied that this remarkable claim should have been obvious to me.
“Pull the other one,” I said.
“They do,” she pouted, then added, a note of defiance in her voice: “Nearly ten per cent of the calls we receive are in praise of our lorry drivers.”
â€œAs many as that?â€Â
â€œYes as many as that.â€Â
“They’ll be from the lorry driversâ€.
This stopped her in her tracks for a moment, this possibility obviously never having occurred to her, but then she saw a flaw in my argument. “Many of the calls in praise of the lorry drivers are from women.”
“The drivers’ wives,” I said. “Or bits on the side. Now are you ready to listen to my complaint or are you going to confirm to me that many of the calls you receive in praise of lorry drivers are from little green men from Mars?”
The phone went silent for a moment, then: “What do you wish to complain about it?”
“That’s more like it,” I said, “We’re slowly getting there. The driver of the lorry in question. He didn’t cut me up.”
“Didn’t cut you up?”
“When he passed me. Nor, before passing me and not cutting me up, did he travel behind me for about five miles with a gap of no more than three yards between us – tailgating I think you call it – honking his horn continuously and flashing his headlights.”
“He’s not supposed to do that!â€
“I know he isn’t. Â Especially as I was travelling at dead on the speed limit of forty miles-per-hour and for him to overtake me would have meant him breaking the speed limit, and the law along with it.”
She thought about this for a moment before asking: “So why are you complaining then?”
“Not so fast. Kindly allow me to list all my complaints before we discuss what you intend, if anything, to do about them.” I went on. “When he passed me and I honked my horn at him your driver didn’t slam on his brakes, climb angrily out of his cab, advance on me rolling up his sleeves and threaten to duff me up. There, that is my complaint in full. Now you can tell me what you intend to do about it.”
“Do about what? He didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know. But I was expecting him to do something wrong, wasn’t I. At the very least I expected him to tailgate me for about five miles, honking his horn continuously and flashing his headlights, even if he didn’t see fit to cut me up after he’d passed me, slam on his brakes, climb angrily out of his cab, advance on me rolling up his sleeves and threaten to duff me up. I mean I’m not used to being treated like that by HGV drivers, it completely disorientated me. You could tell how badly it affected me, I had to pull in at a Little Chef for a coffee, and you have to be in a pretty bad way to do that, at their prices.”
Now here’s the situation. At one end of the phone line you have a young woman who, by her own admission, spends over ninety per cent of her day listening to calls from angry car drivers about bad lorry drivers. At the other end of the line you have a caller who is trying his level best to bring a little fun into her life, a little light relief to help her through what must be a truly distressing day. You would think that the young woman would appreciate it, wouldn’t you. Youâ€™d be wrong.
“It’s a pity you’ve got nothing better to do than waste people’s time,” she said, and hung up on me.
Actually I agree with her, but most of the things that are better to do cost money, and with just old age and retirement pensions to live on nowadays I have to take my enjoyment where I can find it.