The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 20

by Pseud O'Nym

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are a lot – is being a passenger in a distant relatives car.

Basically with anyone I didn’t know, but had to be polite to.

Admittedly this doesn’t happen so much now, what with me not being a child, and having my own car – which for the good of other road users I don’t drive – but when it did it simply confirmed how correct was low opinion of most other people.

Because as a child, pretty much all my chauffeuring duties were undertaken by my mother, so much so that I believed that the only way to drive was by being mindful both of speed and distance from the car in front, giving indication of a maneuver well in advance and also observing the basic rule of physics. Namely, a moving object will carry on moving at the same speed if a similar object close to it suddenly stops. As a child, this obvious and irrefutable fact seemed beyond the understanding of other users of the motorway system.

So as far as possible, for selfish reasons – like wanting to keep my blood inside my body – I resisted travelling as a passenger in a car driven by someone who didn’t match the high standards my mother had set. Quite why women drivers were considered less capable than men – trust me, when I was a child, they were – always baffled me, because the worst drivers were always men. On one occasion when my brother was driving far in excess of his ability, I asked him to pull over so I could get out.

So being a passenger in a distant relatives car was nerve-wracking not just because of their driving ability or lack thereof, but also because of the stilted conversation, rich with bland platitudes uttered in the forlorn hope that something could be started that would prevent an awkward silence. A silence which would become increasingly more awkward the longer into the journey it lasted but the longer it lasted, the more it was destined to last. Like a self- perpetuating, never ending vortex of agony, the silence would become almost deafening in its intensity. Because, as Obi Wan Kenobi said ‘There has been a great disturbance in the force.’ in cases such as these, when a new dynamic is thrust into a well ordered system, in which the behavioral rhythms established over time, the in-jokes and easy comfortableness of a routine is abandoned on the altar of being festive.