Having broken down earlier that evening, I was feeling a little sorry for myself, therefore the two giant red signs informing me that only buses were allowed beyond the point ahead seemed a little harsh. Give me a break, I thought. I’ve had a tough night – just this once is the least I can ask for.
So, I headed through, confident the angels of the road were on my side.
I’d made several catastrophic mistakes. Firstly, I’d picked Northampton’s busiest night spot through which to drive illegally. As usual, revellers were queuing to get into bars, stumbling across the street, arguing, fighting, crying and generally making Saturday night in Northampton what it has always been – horrendous.
I could perhaps have looked past this, but not on that fateful night a couple of weeks ago. No, due to my car breaking down earlier that evening, I’d had no choice but to take my wife’s Smart Car out. I’d also decided to bring my four-legged friend along for the ride. He sat, as he usually does, on the passenger seat, rear legs slumped either side of his belly and resting on his behind, like a gnome. We looked more Dumb and Dumber than Dukes of Hazard.
If I’d been out, drunk, I too would have found the spectacle of a man with his dog as a passenger driving a matchbox-sized car through a bus lane at eleven thirty on a Saturday night hilarious. Certainly, several people momentarily stopped punching each other in the face to watch me drive cautiously up the road.
Worse was to come. Out of nowhere a policeman appeared and motioned for me to wind the window down.
“Why are you driving up here?”
Immediately, I panicked.
“Sorry, I lost the plot back there,” I said. I knew what I meant, but the moment the words stumbled off my lips and fell into an incoherent pile on the floor, I realised it simply made me sound quite possibly drunk.
“What do you mean, you ‘lost the plot’?” asked the officer, quite understandably.
“Er… I just forgot you couldn’t drive up here.” At this point, the dog clambered over onto my lap and edged his nose to the open window, waiting for the most inopportune moment to plant a smacking great lick on Mr Policeman’s lips. That moment never arrived, thankfully.
All sorts of things rush through your mind when you’re getting told off by the police. Unfortunately, your blind determination to prove you are not a blithering, mental criminal means you inevitably come across as one, immediately.
“But you must know you can’t drive up here because you just told me that you can’t.”
He had a point, and an annoyingly good one. I certainly wasn’t in any position (or car) to argue the point.
I said something else, equally as pathetic which, thankfully, he interrupted.
“Turn around and drive back down there. This would normally be a £60 fine and three points. Be warned.”
I didn’t need asking twice, so quickly slammed the Smart Car in reverse (anyone who has one will know how long this can take), did the tiniest three point turn possible, grabbed first gear and very nearly ploughed knee caps first into a drunk man. He stumbled out of the way, thankfully, and I trundled off down the road, tail dangling limply between my tiny little car’s rear arches.
Thank you, angels of the road. Thanks for nothing.