Eleven: Sticking up for lady drivers

Beck Eleven
Beck Eleven

I'll be in Auckland by the time you read this. If I get caught up in conversation with any of those city- dwellers I'll know just what to talk about. Traffic.

Say what you will about the dirty old quakes, they gave us horrendous roads and horrendous roadworks and now they've given us unbearable traffic jams. Traffic is just as good for party small-talk as weather these days.

I know it's not particularly Kiwi to blow your own trumpet but I must tell you I am quite gifted in certain areas. One is something I call "spatial awareness". This means I am quite good at guessing distance and space. In real- world terms, this means things like being very good at the old video game Frogger or knowing exactly which size plastic container to put leftovers in.

I'm not saying it's a particularly handy life skill, just that I'm gifted in spatial awareness.

I also happen to be a great driver. I'm currently in a war with my boyfriend over who is the better driver.

He may disagree, but I am the one with no demerit points. I am not the one who ran a red light in spring with the excuse "I got confused, there was a piece of blossom on the windscreen".

And, most importantly, I am the one who has the column.

As a brilliant female driver, it lies with me to stick up for my gender when it is wrongly accused, as it often is, of being rubbish behind the wheel.

Some time ago, a (male) colleague mentioned to me that whenever he stopped to let someone through at a busy intersection, he would only get a friendly "thank you" wave from men. Women never bothered. They just sailed through.

As a thankful waver from way back and a person who lets their fellow drivers through, I was incensed - so much so that we pitched the idea as a story. We would stand near two intersections at peak traffic times in the morning and evening. I would write a tally in my notebook and count the number of wavers versus non- wavers while Kirk would photograph the hands in action.

We argued about accepted guidelines for the "traffic wave". Should you go open hand, a quick flick, bilateral or perhaps even a salute?

Why do you wave? Why do you allow someone through? Is it aggression, confidence or just general engagement in the process of driving?

We discussed our personal waving style. Kirk was quite extreme, using a wave in conjunction with a nod. I have an open-handed wave - abrupt and businesslike but firm, and always with a smile.

This week I hunted high and low for that notebook.

Eventually I found the tally and a few sparse notes.

I noted that Kirk (a keen cyclist) had, at one point, embarrassed the good name of The Press by yelling "you rule" as a cyclist zipped through all the traffic without having to wave at anyone.

Another scrawled note said: "Man waves with open hand like giving a spiritual offering."

I have no idea what that meant.

At the time, I remember thinking our science wasn't good but we continued, dutifully ticking the male side or the female side of the tally as required.

I remember the photographer getting yelled at and wondering why we were attracting such ire. As it turned out, we were parked in a bus lane and had created a large amount of the clog ourselves.

We saw people merging like a zip, we saw friendly nodding, we cheered and fist-pumped when a person of our own gender did the "thank you wave" and then we looked at our notes and photographs and saw it was 50-50.

Equally as many women allow you through traffic and equally as many men perform some semblance of a wave.

We checked our data. Agreed it was even and promptly went back to arguing over which gender made the better driver.

We all have plenty of time in traffic these days. Feel free to conduct your own research.

The Press