Road Rage

The following article was written by me 18 years ago, so I apologise for any outdated jokes or attitudes.  I seem to have a lazy reliance on stereotypes here and hope my writing skills have improved and matured since then.

AFTER the depressing events of the last few weeks I was in dire need of cheering up. Drowning my sorrows with alcohol was tempting but I was wise enough to realise that this would only result in vomit and further self pity. What I really needed was a change of scenery.

But where could I go to take my mind off the dirty thieves living it up in their well-furnished council bed-sits wearing my clothes and listening to my CD’s on my hi-fi?

It was an obvious choice – the beautiful cobble stoned streets of industrialised Huddersfield. A place where, in my stereotypical mind, the locals wear flat caps and stuff ferrets down their trousers, not to mention their infatuation with pigeons.

Wrexham were due to play Huddersfield in the FA Cup fourth round replay and if anything could cheer me up it would be my beloved red army.

A few days in advance, I managed to persuade two of my mates, Martin and Mike, who helped me so much though a turbulent time, to accompany me to West Yorkshire. I was looking forward to a good game and with Wrexham’s proud history as cup giantkillers, an upset was a real possibility. Huddersfield Town also play their football in a funky futuristic stadium that is a triumph of modern architecture although it does look rather odd, nestled in between rows of ancient terraced houses and disused factories.

At 5pm, I was laughing at a couple of fat blokes on US chat show Ricki Lake when there was a knock at my door and in walked ginger-haired Mike wrapped up warmly in his trademark sheepskin coat, closely followed by the clean-cut and largely non-descript figure of Martin.

“I’ve brought you both here today to let you into a little secret – I’m gay”

All hell broke loose. Chairs were being thrown around the room and punches were thrown as the air turned blue with the rough language of the New York streets. A couple of bouncers soon intervened and some sort of order was resumed. I switched off the television and grabbed my coat, mobile phone and directions before setting off on what would prove to be an unforgettable journey.

***

It was a clear, crisp evening and we were all looking forward to sitting on cold plastic seats, drinking expensive warm beer and watching a collection of over-paid Premiership wannabes kicking a ball around a field.

After just five minutes of driving we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam. I turned my headlights on as the sun disappeared below the horizon to make way for a full moon and a sprinkling of sparkling stars. We were making remarkably slow progress up the motorway. Traffic stretched as far as the eye could see. Our torture was increased by a rather uninspiring regional disc jockey, who sounded as if he had yet to go through puberty – like a Bee Gee on helium. He kept reminding us of the time until it was clear that I would have to break the land-speed record to make it on time to our desired destination.

After a while, the road in front of us cleared and we were able to pick up a little speed as Martin, who was in the passenger seat, shouted the relevant directions. Some dangerously quick driving put us back on track and then, in the distance, Mike spotted the reassuring sight of floodlights ­­– with ten minutes to spare. The roads around the stadium were like a maze. We began spotting Huddersfield fans draped in blue and white carrying inflatable sheep to goad us with – after all we are Welsh. There is nothing better than shagging sheep and eating leeks. I could hear distant chants of my fellow Wrexham fans while we zoomed past beer-swilling hooligans. Pre match adrenaline began running through my veins, which was boosted when the pre-pubescent DJ played one of my favourite songs across the airwaves – Road Rage by Catatonia.

I came to a junction. I spotted a car park opposite, positioned conveniently underneath the imposing shadow of the intimidating venue. I looked both ways. I pulled out into the road.

“Stop, Nathan.”

Before I knew what was happening a speeding silver car was hurtling towards my poor little Micra and ploughed into the passenger side door. Thankfully, both of my friends were fine although the same couldn’t be said for my battered car. My world felt like it was falling apart as I buried my head in my hands. At that moment, inside the ground, the Huddersfield hierarchy introduced their new chairman to the sound of deafening cheers and a spectacular firework display. The brightly coloured explosives signalled a new chapter in the history of this floundering football club but I felt as if the skies were laughing at me and my latest slice of misfortune.

I moved my injured vehicle onto the side of the road and waited nervously for the speed demon in the other car to come and throttle me. Knowing my luck lately it would be a six-foot bruiser ready to snap my pathetically skinny frame. I chewed my nails but I need not have worried as a sharply dressed businessman emerged from the other car. He was polite and apologetic. Apparently, he was driving a company car so he wasn’t really bothered – we quickly swapped insurance details and he continued his journey to the nearby restaurant for his important, high-powered business meeting.

Meanwhile, I slowly eased the Micra into a safe parking space – about 100 yards from the football theatre where Wrexham’s cup destiny would be played out. I had no option but to stay with the car as the door wouldn’t shut properly and the window was slightly ajar.

I grabbed my mobile to try to get some roadside assistance. Mike reminded me that he was in the AA and we unanimously decided that the fourth emergency service would be our best option. Indeed, a very, very nice man arrived after only 16 minutes only to tell us that Mike’s membership did not cover our current predicament. Before, he left though the very, very nice man closely inspected the car to see whether or not it would be safe to drive back down the M1.

“By ‘eck you’ve done a bit o’ damage ‘ere, haven’t you?”

Mike and Martin were shivering outside the car in the bitter Yorkshire air, whilst I sat immobile in the drivers seat.

“If you try and drive back in this, that window might smash”.

Then, without warning he slammed the door shut and thousands of tiny slivers of glass sprayed around the car, narrowly missing my head.

“Told you”.

Great. Not only was my passenger side-door a garbled mess but now I was treading on broken glass. We waved goodbye to the AA employee and phoned his rivals at the RAC who promised to rescue us from our pit of misery as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I was forced into the ludicrous position of switching on the car radio and listening to commentary of a match that was being played only 100 yards away – so near yet so far. At half-time, I was convinced that we were still in with a chance despite trailing 2-1, surely my luck would change.

As Mike and Martin went to see if they could find some much-needed food, I utilised my mobile phone to let my parents know what had happened. I am not a big fan of new technology such as these pocket-sized tools of communication, favoured by young entrepreneurs and plastic posers. I had bought mine for emergencies, such as the one I found myself in on that cold February evening, but a few months after my purchase my addictive streak took over and I found myself hanging on the telephone for most of the day. Whenever I felt a little low, as I often did during my final semester at university, I would pick up my expensive habit and phone a friend. I would occasionally call my fellow students who only lived a mile or two down the road but more often than not I would call my friend Valerie. She lived in Canada. I wasn’t worried about the cost, I just wanted to speak to a like-minded person who could empathise and cheer me up.

When my monthly statement arrived in March, I was flabbergasted to find that I had racked up a staggering £1,215 bill. The numbers I had been calling were listed over a total of six pages and included a long ream of international codes and the odd premium rate phone line – I used to phone football information lines just so I could hear someone speaking to me. You’re probably thinking I delved into the seedy world of sex chat lines as well but I promise you that I’d rather listen to a middle-aged bloke recite the Scottish football results than a blonde beauty whispering sweet nothings in my ear – honest. In fact, I was so shocked at the size of my bill that I picked up my mobile and called Valerie, for the fourth time that day, to provide me with her amateur psychology. After an hour of listing all the things I could buy with my wasted fortunes I said “au revoir” and buried my costly instrument deep in my sock draw.

Finally, my two university chums returned from their long search for food and I was disappointed to discover that they were empty handed, although I’m sure I spotted Mike wiping a spot of tomato sauce away from his lips. They sat down on the side of the pavement, as they did not dare enter the car in case they got a sharp splinter of glass wedged where the sun doesn’t shine.

The second half was well under way by now and the radio commentary led me to believe that an equaliser was imminent. However, there was still no sign of assistance as we gazed down the road, praying that our rescue vehicle would burst out of the foggy shadows. We sat and shivered as the temperature plummeted and the referee blew his final whistle. A vast army of football fans trudged homewards to their central heating and hot, buttered toast while the stadium groundsman flicked off the floodlights to signal an end to the evening’s entertainment, and plummet the impressive arena into total darkness. Mike was counting the stars in the sky, Martin was rambling on about his new computer and I was wondering what I had done to deserve this run of bad luck when suddenly a large tow-truck roared around the corner.

A bald headed, tubby giant emerged from the impressive vehicle. He was wearing a rather tatty blue pair of overalls, which were smeared with oil, grease and the remnants of his latest plate of cholesterol. Despite this unattractive appearance, he was a welcome sight as he provided us with a route back to Nottingham and our comfortable duvet covers. We should have been harassing him for taking almost two hours to find us but we were exhausted, hungry and cold by this point and just wanted to go home.

After manoeuvring my car on the back of the truck it was time for me to climb in his grubby cab, which was littered with copies of the Daily Star, various pornographic magazines and the odd cigarette stub. This is easier said than done when your legs are as much use as a chocolate fireguard and the seat you are trying to leap into is six foot from the ground. Subsequently, Martin and Mike had to manhandle and bundle me into the pervert’s parlour. I landed on the left-breast of a buxom young lady who was probably forced into sharing her body with the world in order to meet her landlords rent demands. I apologised for squashing her chest.

As we raced back down the M1, we had to put up with some horrible, racist verbal diarrhoea from our supposed knight in shining armour who was quickly shedding his heroic status and beginning to resemble the head wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. I had never heard such passionate drivel as this flabby, middle-aged pervert actually believed he was better than an entire race of people just because of the colour of his greasy, smoke stained skin. I am rather embarrassed that I didn’t actually argue with him and tell him where he could stick his abusive ramblings. Instead I just stayed silent for fear that he would leave us stranded on the side of England’s busiest motorway.

As a turbulent Tuesday came to an end, we arrived back to the University of Nottingham campus. We gave our racist rescuer a two-fingered salute goodbye while Martin parked my car next to a wall in order to prevent the dirty thieves from gaining easy access to it through the smashed window. Before we said good night to one another we ordered a large pizza each in order to quell our hunger. I couldn’t finish it all as a storm of nervous tension began to gather in my stomach although at least breakfast was sorted out.  Spicy chicken pizza was often on my early morning menu during my student years – and still I wondered why my face was illuminated by acne. Martin and Mike assured me that everything would be OK before going to bed to ponder their own problems.  As my head hit the pillow a tear rolled down my cheek – Wrexham had lost 2-1 and were out of the FA Cup.

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