A5 BEM

(2019)   Back

At first I thought I was in the wrong lane, so I quickly indicated and changed lanes, as you do. It was in a part of town I hadn’t been in a while, I was flustered, and I got confused. Then it turned out I had been in the right lane in the first place - and my turning was coming up. Sainsbury’s was coming up fast. So I slowed down, in front of the car I cut off when I first changed lanes. When someone finally let me in, the car behind me zoomed off and the man gave me a dirty look. It made me feel awful as I bought pastries in Sainsbury’s.

You see, I was originally in the right-hand lane, which I don’t like being in unless I have to. You always get pricks in fast cars tailgating you when you’re going the speed limit (or even five above). Plus I was in a part of town I hadn’t been in a while and I didn’t quite know what was ahead, so I decided to change lanes. I thought the right-hand lane was going to lead me off somewhere I didn’t want to go. I pushed, I’ll admit, and squeezed in front of an Audi in the left hand lane. He didn’t seem too happy about it.

But just as I was getting over that sudden lane change - I get flustered behind the wheel quite easily - I spotted Sainsbury’s just up the road. The way into the car park was via one of those turn-right-and-wait spaces in the middle of the road. The turning was coming up fast, so I slowed down and waited for someone in the right-hand lane to let me in. The Audi behind me had to fairly quickly decelerate, which shouldn’t be too much to ask if you’re watching the road. Luckily someone let me in and I squeezed across the right-hand lane and into the turn-and-wait space.

As I changed lanes, the Audi passed and zoomed off, and the man gave me the really dirty look. It unsettled me, I’ll admit. I kept thinking of what I should’ve done in that moment. Maybe given him the finger, or shrugged apologetically, or even returned the look. I just stared blankly at him as he looked down his nose at me. Even in Sainsbury’s, picking out pain au chocolats, I thought about him. I was worried I’d see him again. I should’ve been more aggressive, I thought. I should’ve won that fight.

I usually go to the Sainsbury’s near me, but I had dropped my sister off at a friend’s house and was in a part of town I hadn’t been in a while. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and go to a Sainsbury’s I knew was in the retail park nearby.

Now, I always think it’s good practice to stay in the left-hand lane if you don’t know where you are, because if you reach a traffic light the left-hand lane usually leads forwards, whereas sometimes if you’re stuck in the right-hand lane you have no choice but to turn right, onto a more unknown road. But as I was approaching the retail park I had quiet confidence that the Sainsbury’s was a right turn, so I changed lanes.

Quickly my confidence deflated and I felt the pressure of pricks in fast cars tailgating me, so I squeezed into the left-hand lane, in front of an Audi, who clearly didn’t seem very happy about it. I don’t like doing things so suddenly when I’m driving, it gets me flustered and then I can’t calm down until I park the car and stop, but he let me in. Now at least I was back in the safety of the left-hand lane.

But as I turned the corner I spotted Sainsbury’s coming up fast - and on the right, just as I’d remembered. I’m afraid to say I had to break suddenly, and indicate right so I could get into the turn-right-and-wait space in the middle of the road. Someone let me in without too long a wait, but I was aware the Audi behind me had to quickly decelerate, and it was the same one I’d cut off earlier. As I pulled into the turn-and-wait space, the Audi passed and the man inside gave me the dirtiest look. My heart sank and I felt guilt and anger, and as he zoomed off I noticed his numberplate was customised:
A5 BEM
.
A5
was the model of his Audi, but
BEM
? I figured maybe his name was Ben, and
A5 BEN
was already taken. Or maybe his name was actually Bem.

When I pulled into Sainsbury’s my pulse was racing, and my thoughts were running over and over what I could’ve done in response to Bem’s look. I could’ve given him the finger, or two fingers, or even narrowed my eyes. But I didn’t. I just stared blankly as he zoomed off. I wandered aimlessly around Sainsbury’s, having in the heat of the confrontation forgotten what I needed to get, and started to become paranoid. What if Bem got my numberplate? He could get my address from that, and come and key my car. Or worse, smash a window. Or worse, what if he had a dashcam and had recorded my terrible lane-changing and decision making? What if he put me on YouTube or some obscure forum? What if he remembers my face? I certainly wouldn’t forget his for a while, but was my blank expression as memorable? How could I get him back for giving me a dirty look? I suppose I do have his numberplate. I could get his address.

It took three circuits of Sainsbury’s for the paranoia to subside. I picked out some pain au chocolats and left, half expecting Bem to be waiting to run me over in the car park, with that same look on his face. But he wasn’t there, so I pulled back into the road, turned left for home and stayed in the left-hand lane.