October 29, 2006

That's some far-out road safety dude

"Research found that 1 in 10 people in Scotland, under the age of 40, have driven under the influence of illegal drugs. Cannabis was the most common drug used, with many believing it had little or no effect on their driving ability.
"UK statistics show that traces of illegal drugs were present in 18 per cent of road deaths. Applying this percentage to the number of people aged 16 and over killed in road accidents in Scotland in 1999 gives a figure of 50."*
When they published this about a year ago I read it briefly, thought to myself 'Aye, right' and forgot all about it. Hitchhiking around the country, however, has been a rare opportunity to conduct some small-scale unscientific research all of my very own.
Not so long ago I was stood on a roundabout outside Newcastle trying to thumb my way to Leeds. Within 30 seconds a blacked-out Range Rover screeched to a sharp halt. Wisps of thick blue smoke escaped as the passenger side window went down.
"Hey. I'm trying to get to Leeds. You headed that way?" asks I.
The driver looked like Jimmy Savile but younger. Sporting a shellsuit, fake tan and with a massive joint instead of Jimmy's usual Cuban, he replied (honestly): "Why Aye man."
I know the guy is pretty stoned but it's too late to turn down the lift. He might take offence and anyway, the next guy to stop could be an East European trucker with a compulsive masturbatory disorder (it happens) so I jump in the Range Rover.
The driver's clearly a drug dealer. He's too young to be driving a car like this legitimately and his girlfriend is too young and gorgeous to be going out with him for any reason other than he's loaded. Either that or his willy's massive. I ask what he does for a living: 'Ah, this and that.'
We proceed to Leeds at 100mph. The A1 is packed, as usual, which stresses the Geordie out even more. Every time he gets stuck behind a truck he opens the sun roof, erects a middle finger, swears loudly then sparks up another reefer. I decide not to tell him I drive trucks for a living.
Two days later I'm hitching again. This time on the A63 trying to get away from Hull as fast as humanly possible, which is the best way to leave Hull. I had to get to Preston, a good 100 miles away but the train is £30+ so I decide to thumb it. I figure if I can get to Leeds it'll be easier/cheaper to then thumb/train/bus to Preston.
Pretty soon a light truck stops. The guy's going to Leeds. Perfect. I jump in and start making the same old bullshit small talk. After a few miles the driver asks me if I smoke weed.
I start rambling: 'Well I've dabbled a little. Certainly in my younger days I smoked with alarming frequency although these day I tend to save it for weekends, special occasions, you know the kind of thing...'
'Can you skin up?'
'Skin up then.' He lifts an AtoZ to reveal hash, papers and tobacco.
Ever the grateful guest, I start to skin up. My host seems to be one of those smokers who needs it to be normal. It's probably a better idea to feed him than withold it or, worse, protest. Even if he is smoking that hard brown chemical Afghan shit - not like the Geordie who only smoked top-notch Dutch skunk. I agree to build the joint but confess that I'm useless at the final roll so pass it over for the penultimate manouvre.
(Sorry. Have to stop writing for a few minutes. John Martyn just came on the radio.)
We smoke. We laugh. We talk about places we don't like driving. London is mentioned.
'Ah run a woman over in London just last week affa Hyde Park Corner (a notoriously difficult junction),' says my driver. As the needle passes 70mph, he's steering with his elbows whilst triying to lick the joint. It's not funny but I laugh 'cos, well, I'm a bit stoned.
'Was she OK?'
'Naw. She was fooked mate. Rushed aff in an ambulance. Don't know if she made it or not. I should check really.'
We get to Leeds.
Turns out this guy is going all the way to my destnation, Preston. Bonus. All I've got to do is help him with a delivery or two and he'll take me all the way there. First up is an electrical supplier in Leeds. We diligently listen to the annoying American Satnav woman for about an hour and a half as she takes us on a guided tour of suburban Leeds. Eventually we stop outside a pretty terraced abode near the airport. It's nice but clearly not an electrical wholsesaler. My new mate jumps out, chaps the door and talks to the old lady who lives there. He jumps back in.
'What's up dude?'
'Fook, Bastard, Shite, Fook!!!'
'What's the problem man?'
''I moost 'ave stuck the wrong fookin' postcode in't Satnav when we was 'avin a smoke. We're in LS9, nae LS19. Fook!'
'What's the difference?'
'Af' o' fookin' Leeds is fooking difference. BASTARD! Sorry bud. We're gonna be an extra hour or two gettin to Preston.'
'Tell you what mate. Drop us here and I'll get in't train.'