There was a narrow window between the earliest time that Stan could legitimately leave work and the point at which navigating the evening traffic became unfeasible. He had got it down to a fine art in recent weeks, but his decision to field an unexpectedly long call that afternoon had somewhat scuppered his plans to avoid the gruesome gridlock of rush hour.
Consequently he found himself sitting in a near-stationary queue, waiting to join the equally static dual carriageway, that would in turn lead to the Old Cross Roundabout, a veritable disc of despair that could render even the most cool-headed of motorists a seething sack of primordial rage.
The radio was playing an irreverent and satirical review of the week in politics. Stan found it vaguely entertaining, though its inevitable association with a gruelling commute, given that he only caught it on the occasions he found himself in this driver’s dystopia, muted the comedy value somewhat.
Still, the radio did provide some small relief as his little runabout crawled down the slip road towards the next stage of his purgatory. It was approaching the midway point of the show when he finally managed to navigate his way into the left-hand lane of the dual carriageway, though in some ways this did serve to slightly elevate his stress levels, as he now needed to achieve the more challenging feat of manoeuvring his car into the other lane, so that when he eventually did make it to the Old Cross Roundabout, he would be able to affect a right turn.
This was easier said than done, the traffic in the right-hand lane was moving a touch quicker than the lane he was currently sitting in, and he was rather dependent on the kindness of others in order to make his move. He flipped on his right indicator to alert other motorists to his desired outcome. It did not seem to serve as much of an incentive for the right lane motorists to let him in however, so he continued to crawl slowly forwards in the left lane, hoping in vain for a gap to open up.
The comedy show ended and another light-hearted, though less intrinsically funny, show started. It was tolerable as radio emissions went , but rather less entertaining that its predecessor. Stan also became acutely aware of his bladder being fuller than he was comfortable with. He had eschewed the chance of a quick trip to the gents on his way out of the office in his haste to fulfil his ultimately doomed desire of beating the traffic.
As the car crept slowly closer to the roundabout, a left turn was looking like it might become an unfortunate necessity. He could still get home by taking this route, but it would likely add another fifteen minutes to his journey and he’d rather avoid that given the increasing urgency of his need to relieve himself.
Still, there was no give in the right hand lane, and Stan was loathe to try and force his way across, as some other motorists were attempting to do. The dual carriageway was a notorious accident hot spot and he didn’t want to risk a collision on this most anger-inducing of roads. Someone was bound to let him in soon, he reasoned.
As he edged ever closer to the roundabout and his optimism began to fade, he became aware of flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and the sound of sirens. There was an ambulance trying to force its way through the gridlock. It was progressing at a speed that would utterly belie the sense of urgency that the sight and sound of an emergency medical vehicle ought to engender. Still, cars were attempting to move out of the way, albeit in an ultimately futile manner. It was, however, very much in the lane that Stan wanted to be in, and so a plan began to form. Eventually the ambulance was alongside Stan’s own little chariot and he gripped his steering wheel in anticipation. As the emergency vehicle moved slowly past, Stan swerved into its wake, before other motorists had had time to react.
Stan had no idea how serious the medical emergency was that had necessitated the arrival of the paramedics and he genuinely hoped all would end well for the afflicted parties. However, as he made his coveted right turn at the roundabout, he couldn’t help but reflect that their misfortune was rather a stroke of luck for him.