I have a recurring dream. A BMW Series 3 drives down my street. The speed limit is 40 km/h but it is going at least 50, maybe even 60. There are kids playing and people living their lives but the driver is oblivious, going too fast to notice. He’s in a hurry and, if that means endangering innocent people, so be it.
Somehow, I am holding a brick in my right hand. As Mr. Series 3 approaches, I draw back – channelling pitching great Nolan Ryan – and unleash. The brick arcs through the air, smashing through the windshield. The BMW comes to a gentle stop.
My neighbours pour on to the street in jubilation. The men are impressed by the accuracy of my aim, the women because I’m good with my hands. Police and paramedics arrive.
“Thanks,” one officer says. “We’ve been hoping for weeks that somebody would throw a brick through that guy’s window.”
Even the BMW driver, who received a solid but not disfiguring blow to the face, is pleased. “Thanks,” he says. “Thanks to your brick I now realize what a complete idiot I’ve been. I can now change my ways forever and get on with my life.”
With a wave of my hand I bid the cheering crowd, which has now swelled to the hundreds, adieu.
Like I said. I have this dream a lot. I’m usually wide-awake, standing on my porch.
“Wait a minute, Andrew,” you might say, “That’s you. You’re a sick person. You have unwanted inappropriate thoughts. Your violent fantasy is yours alone. Besides, aren’t you just channelling a scene from Martin Amis’s classic satire The Information?”
To which I’d reply: “First, thanks for mentioning my name in the same sentence as Martin Amis. Second, I’m not alone. There are millions of us, standing furious on our porches, dreaming of violent retribution, as residential racers try to break speed records.”
We all know street racers – they drive like maniacs on highways and main arteries. Residential racers are a similarly vile breed – and very hard to stop – they are the cockroaches of speeding infractions.
Violence doesn’t solve anything but it can come in handy if you’re trying to make a point. I swear to God, if an angry flash mob of frazzled parents dragged a speeder from his vehicle and beat him with wicker furniture and garden implements, it might at least make a bit of an impression on him.
It’s tough to understand what makes a driver speed along a residential street – from stop sign to stop sign. It’s an unpleasant way to drive . It’s not even real speeding. I admit I love speed. I love driving. I also recognize that if I’m serious about pursuing these passions, the best way to do it is to get a good car and hit the track. There I can meet and compete with others who share my need for speed. It’s called automobile racing. I hear it’s quite popular.
Yet residential racers wouldn’t come within two miles of a racetrack. They would be scared senseless of real speed. Plus, they might lose and mom and dad promised them that would never happen. These folks rip up and down drowsy roads to compensate for their cowardice.
The typical residential speeder is a young driver, in his parents’ ride, out to impress anyone. Look, I realize that being young means being stupid. You know how they always ask, “If you could go back in time what would you tell yourself?” I think I would just beat myself up. So we can cut them a little slack.
Still, when I see some punk in Pampers blazing down the avenue in his mom’s Honda Civic, I wish I could catch him at the stop sign and say, “I was wondering if we could get together for coffee in say, 30 or 35 years?”
It would be satisfying to sit across a table from one of these boy racers and listen to him recount the litany of failures, empty macho posturing and fractured dreams that has been his life. When he’s done, I could pause and say, “And who would have thought, 30 years ago when you got your kicks speeding at 60 km/h down residential streets in your mother’s Honda Civic that it would have come to all this?”
But it’s not just young guns; these residential racers come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the busy mother speeding her kids to various lessons all the while endangering other kids, the hurried businessman, the perennially late contractor and, perhaps the most common of all, the just stupid for no particular reason.
Residential racers defend their habit by explaining that “they speed down residential streets all the time and nothing bad has ever happened.” It’s the same excuse drunk drivers use, and strangely, the same one argued by people who’ve successfully played Russian roulette.
It has little bearing to any kind of logic. Every time you speed you’re relying on chance. You’re taking a risk and hoping that everyone else won’t. That a kid won’t dart between parked cars or a cyclist won’t make a wrong turn. Yet chance has no memory. It is not cumulative. Probability does not increase or decrease due to frequency. The probability is the same every time. So the fact you’ve raced down residential streets for the last 10 years doesn’t mean that the next speeding trip you take won’t end in tragedy. Unfortunately, if these people were vulnerable to logic they wouldn’t be racing to begin in the first place. We could try brain transplants but those are prohibitively expensive.
All we can do is hope. So I beseech you, residential racer. If you love speed, go to the racetrack. You’ll be safer there going 160 km/h than you are going 60 km/h on a side street and so will the rest of us.
In the meantime, I’ll be waiting on my porch with my brick and my dreams, rereading The Information.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy