Thursday October 19, 2006
“Oh dear,” I said. “It was going well until now. Will you look at that queue?”
We were slowing down, approaching the tail-end of a traffic jam stretching as far as the eye could see along the motorway ahead of us. An overhead speed control sign began to blink *50* across all three lanes as we came to a halt.
“What do you think it might be?”
“I know they’re doing some roadwork but I hadn’t heard of it bringing the motorway to a complete stop. Oh well. We’ll just have to be patient and wait.”
Slowly, a handful of yards at a time, the traffic inched forward and we moved with it. Just before we got to the exit from the M5 to join the M4 it all opened up a little, only to come to another dead stop as we filtered onto the slip road leading to the next motorway.
“This isn’t fair. Two separate jams, one straight after the other,” I said. “Wish we’d brought a flask with us. I could just go a coffee now.”
“Wish we hadn’t come today at all,” Graham said, beginning to lose patience.
“Nah. We’ll have forgotten all about this when we get there. And they’ll be keeping our breakfasts warm, just you wait and see.”
And so it went. The traffic moved a few yards, us tagging along, then another stop, and another wait. Then, eventually, the traffic opened up and off we went, passing a horribly mangled white car that’d just been hauled off the road by a large wrecking truck, two police cars in attendance. The ambulance must have been long gone.
“Oh dear,” I said. “Someone’s day has been spoiled. Or worse.”
“Serve ’em right,” Graham said, putting into words what I suspect a lot of people were thinking.
“What on earth do you mean?”
“There’s only one way to crash like that in dense traffic and that’s by driving too fast and too aggressively.”
We pulled off the M4 and on to the M32 and open road stretched away in front of us, leading to a welcoming IKEA. As we slipped into a disabled parking slot right by the entrance I looked at the clock on the dash.
“Ah well. We’re only 45 minutes later than we’d planned and we’re still in good time for breakfast. Seemed longer sitting in all that traffic, though.”
“Dunno about you but I’m gasping for coffee. Next time, we bring a flask.”
I was right of course. By the time we’d picked up our breakfast trays from the servery and walked them over to an empty table we’d forgotten the traffic problems and set about our meals with gusto, chatting happily away as though nothing untoward had happened on the way.
Thinking about it now, it has been a long time since we were stuck in a jam like that. When setting off on a motorway journey we used always to fill a flask and pack a few nibbles just in case. Makes a traffic jam a lot more bearable does a hot drink and a little something to nibble.
Breakfast done, we headed off to shop and got almost everything we wanted in record time. Not quite everything, of course. That’s the way of IKEA. They run their stock very close to the wire and it’s not at all rare to find that something on your list ‘will be coming in on Tuesday’. Clever. Keeps the customers coming back.
We finished up in good time for lunch, headed home on much quieter and trouble free motorways, and arrived in good time to miss the school run and not so late that an afternoon nap was out of the question. Could have done without the traffic problems but I’m grateful for the way that motorway management technology has advanced, getting the road clear and the traffic moving so much faster than used to be the case. Not so many years back a crash like that would have closed the motorway for two or three hours, if not longer. And back then you really did need to carry a flask and nibbles with you.
I hope the people involved in the crash were not too badly hurt and that they’ll have learned the basic survival lesson of motorway driving. Slow and easy does it, safely, every time.