Actually, that’s a lie. I became a man on Thursday, I just didn’t get around to writing this until now.
So how did I become a man? Well, I got lost on the Wolverhampton ring road. This is the nearest thing young adult males in the Black Country have to going out to the Savanna and killing a lion with their bare hands, and while I probably should have done that at the age of 13, not 29, I still feel pretty manly as a result of adventuring down grim dead ends and over many random speedbumps.
It all started at work, when we found we needed to attend a meeting at Wolverhampton College. That was no problem, its fairly easy to get to, and I could follow my boss there so everything was peachy. We went to the meeting, got everything sorted out, came out, I asked for directions back, no problem. “Stick to the A449” I was told, and that was good advice. I knew exactly where I had to go. Thing is, at one point I ended up in the wrong lane. This shouldn’t have been a problem, except the very second I decided to do the sensible thing and switch to the correct route, about a gazillion other road users appeared out of nowhere and skewered that plan like a malevolent kebab. I had to stick to my original path and sally forth into the unknown, hoping beyond hope that I could get back onto the correct route.
Now, most of you are reading this thinking that this shouldn’t have been a big deal. This is because you are using Earth logic to analyse the situation, and to be honest, ‘logic’ and ‘Wolverhampton ring road’ should never appear in the same sentance together. I did my best, really I did, following the traffic and bearing roughly in the direction I knew I should be heading in. However, at one point I must have got confused or turned around or slipped into a parallel universe because all of a sudden I was seeing signs to Cannock. For those of you who aren’t local, let’s just say I didn’t want to be heading for Cannock. Don’t take that the wrong way, but all I really know about the place is that there was once, allegedly, a UFO crash on Cannock Chase, and I’ve seen enough episodes of Doctor Who to stay well away from UFO crash sites. The nice aliens, like ET or Superman, well, they can just come to me if they want.
(The above is true. Or at least that’s what the Internet tells me.)
So, I got myself onto a roundabout and tried to retrace my steps, only to notice, amid cracks in Wolverhampton’s urban wasteland, a glorious site, a landmark of the ages. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could see Sainsburys, and if I could get to Sainsburys, I could find my way home. So obviously, I headed for that glorious supermarket, and ended up…
Well, I ended up on a housing estate, which was interesting, because I didn’t know there was a housing estate there. So I drove through there, getting a little panicked and frustrated and going over the speedbumps probably a little faster than I should have, and then, O happy day, I found myself…
On a trading estate.
Correction, on a trading estate where every turning seemed to be into a dead end. It was starting to look like some twisted horror story, something Stephen King would have knocked together after getting lost around Wolverhampton (“And he travelled on for all eternity, because little did he realise he had DIED and this wasn’t really a RING ROAD, it was PURGATORY ITSELF!!!”)
Anyway, I realised it wasn’t really Purgatory when I spotted PC World. That was it. I’d got a heading and I was going to get there even if it meant driving over pedestrianised areas and one way streets and kittens and stuff. And finally, like some returning hero coming back over the hill to be welcomed back by his family, friends and the village supermodel, I drove my Nissan Micra onto the Dudley road and let out the Whoop of Joy.
Now some of you, probably women, are asking “Why didn’t you use a map? Or ask directions?” To which I reply: “Don’t be stupid, I’m a guy.” And all the men reading this will nod sagely. Not for us the technological route fascism of GPS. Pah, we scoff at GPS, in much the same way we scoff at the Atkins Diet and Sex in the City and women’s cricket. Heck, we don’t even use our trusty A to Z if we can help it. Think back to the Age of Exploration, those guys found whole continents and relied on the STARS to navigate. Anything else seems wussy. I wanted to get out of this situation using only landmarks, the stars and gut instinct, the method my ancestors would have used (or at least, the method they’d have used had they not been carpenters and therefore not needing much in the way of celestial navigation).
So that’s the story of my automotive rites of passage, and I am now worthy of receiving respect, comradeship and the love of a good woman, as well as other situation-specific signs of manliness, such as driving convictions. But let us put those things aside right now, the important thing is, I got lost on the ring road, but I got home. Not only that, I got home ALIVE.
Um, andy_dickens? Next time we go to Wolverhampton on a Friday night? You’re driving.