Having left my office in the gloom of Bristol Harbourside at some point last year I began commuting in the other direction. I now head deeper into Wales, through the infamous Brynglas Tunnels, along the stop-start A48(M), down the rancid and litter smothered Rover Way and onto a Multi-Storey in Cardiff Bay. To some this may sound like hell, but I still prefer the sanctuary of my red Seat Ibiza ecomotive (with awful wheels) to waiting around at Severn Tunnel Junction and paying into Great Western Rails coffers.
Below are some of my observations since turning the other way at the Coldra.
- Nobody is paying attention – if anyone is looking for a reason to sell self driving cars and ban humans from operating high speed automobiles, they need only to visit the M4 at rush hour. I witness on a daily basis a huge number of people texting and using the phone without hands free. I witness people applying makeup using the rear view mirror before slamming on the brakes (more on that later). I have genuinely seen a lady writing a greetings card on her steering wheel whilst holding the envelope in her mouth. It’s frankly astonishing any of us make it in to work each day.
- Radio is great – I have missed out on radio for most of my life. I’ve never really understood it as a medium of entertainment, probably due to my Dad always tuning into horrific AM frequencies to listen to football matches. Now of course I spend my time equally split between Radio 4 and Spotify with the odd bit of Queen’s Greatest Hits. Radio 4 is fantastic. Radio 1 is good in small doses. As for the rest, meh. I anticipate if I ever buy another car, it shall have DAB.
- BMW drivers – I have had the wonderful privilege of driving a BMW Z3 for the past year. Whilst I was hassled and badgered for driving what is considered a “hairdressers” car by many. Usually the type of hideous macho man crippled with self doubt and loathing. Most likely well into either an unhappy marriage or divorce. Now that’s over with let me sympathise with BMW drivers. They are 99% awful. Sometimes you are on the motorway and they are not ramming you up the rear, flashing their lights and generally coming across like they have some sort of tarmac privilege. It is in fact down to the car. When driving a BMW for whatever reason the pedals, the steering wheel, the gear stick; they encourage you to be a total utter scoundrel. It’s the cars fault. It doesn’t help that most BMW drivers manifest in the form of balding, angry middle managers but it’s not their fault. They have so little identity in day to day life that a 5-Series and a dual carriage way is where they display their power. Or lack of. Much like in work I imagine .
- Smart motorways – These are not smart. They are a death trap. When a train is delayed. A calm woman on a tannoy will tell you with no compassion that somebody three stops away called it a day. On a smart motorway you get a 40mph speed limit, a red x and have to rely on BBC Radio Wales to tell you what’s occurring, supposing you are sat there long enough to hear the travel news. The same information signs that tell you not to drink and drive (they should say this before entering the motorway) should inform you how long this will add to your journey. Just because keeping people in the loop helps calm the nerves. As for the speed limits, sometimes it just drops to 40 and people slam the breaks in order to not pay money. Who can blame them but putting the speed limit suddenly down on a road where nobody pays attention is both reckless and annoying. The acceleration snake agrees.
I don’t hate this commute at all. All in all its more hygienic than the tube commute I was doing 3 years ago. Shorter and cheaper than my Bristol commute and has more of a purpose than my university commute. Hopefully in the next few months my next commute will surface in the form of a two wheeled experience lasting around 10 minutes. Perhaps leading to a blog post called Tales From Nigel Barrage.