Road Rage Rants and the Sound of Thunder...

Road Rage Rants and the Sound of Thunder...

Funny thing about Ronnie Pickering's road rage...

I did the same myself once.

I was at a roundabout near the bottom of Birmingham which verges decorously upon the green fields and garden centres of Worcestershire, watching traffic come and go, waiting for an opening.

Then I saw this Brummie driver behind me, gesticulating splenetically, fit to burst like a Goodyear tyre for my mortal sin: I'd hesitated more than two seconds before launching myself into that multi-tributaried, fast-streaming flow of traffic.

Terrible. What is the world coming to.

I'm usually slow to anger, but like some men in my age bracket (51-60) I've a growing exasperation with the slings and arrows of my daily fortunes which, in other times, I'd let slip and pass away.

In one smooth motion of clear and present anger, I let slip my lap-strap, came out of my seat, stood upon the road, and let him have it:

"I'll take my time, thank you very much!"

I think he and I were about the same age. I might have hesitated if it had been a testosterone-fuelled bunch of yobs in a hot hatchback filling my rear view mirror, but there and then it was just two fizzing middle-aged men in a momentary face-off; one realizing he'd just woken the kraken, the other producing a sound of thunder which cut his codswallop off at source in a millisecond.

Unlike Ronnie's Rant, there was nary a swear word spoken. It was all over very quickly and we departed the scene within seconds, driving with a certain studied calm.

No more than a couple of quinquagenarian crackpots making momentary fools of themselves, you might say.

But here's the serious bit.

When I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, I found out (among other things) that the speed at which I processed complex information was "significantly worse than all other Indexes" , that it represented "a clear and specific deficit in [my] ability to quickly and efficiently process visual information" and that "the rate of which new information is learned is better than only 3% of the population."

In practice, this means I must (and I mean really must) give myself a little more time than the average neuro-typical (whose processing speed will be much greater than mine) to work out what all those cars coming at me are doing. If I rush it carelessly, I could careen into heavy traffic without knowing what I was doing, cause a major crash, kill others, die.

Yeah, it's serious.

I've had a driving licence for thirty-four years, but once I was diagnosed with autism I revised my road manners to accommodate the deficits I now knew I had, to relearn my limitations and (to use a little gallows humour), not just to drive with due care and attention at all times, but above all to make sure I didn't go round crashing into other cars. Shorn of the glamour of The Fast and the Furious, a car really is a lethal weapon, it can kill people. I'd like to think I'm responsible enough to know that.

So if you see a small blue Nissan Micra hesitating by a major road, give the guy that second's grace. God knows, he or I may need it.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

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