We live in hierarchies and we all know where we stand, right?
Tallest? Best looking? Wealthiest? Funniest? Most successful…
What we do for a living; from the vaunted professions down… we are all workers with our names either on our shirts, our desks, the office door or finally on the building itself.
The road is a good metaphor for hierarchy and specifically the motorway or the highway.
Because what car you drive is so much more than just a mode of movement and travelling.
Your ride is a statement.
A muscle car with excessive and overly aggressive exhaust. Anyone?
No, me neither.
Or what about a vintage car as a marker down, with its trade-off between looking good but not starting.
Or the convertible car – for people who don’t like chatting but do like flies.
The sports car of course. The gleaming Ferrari or the dark and menacing Porsche. Although here in the UK with speed cameras as prevalent as speed humps, I can only imagine the frustration at paying extra for speed that is impossible to use.
And then the veritable daddy of them all; the Rolls Royce. The ultimate status symbol on the road.
Rich, important person coming through. Get the f*** out of my way.
A house is a great indicator of status. And speaking of hierarchies, with our Prince Harry becoming plain old Harry Wales and moving to LA, the media have revelled in explaining the value of Tyler Perry’s house that was their stop gap before they found a cake of their own.
But a house is static. It can’t be seen and shown off when we are out and about – unless we take a realtors brochure with us to show people.
And so then, the car is a mobile demonstration of wealth and status. And as such the Rolls Royce Phantom ($400,000) is sort of like a mobile home? Albeit neither Mr Rolls nor Mr Royce would thank me for this association – but you know what I mean?
And a hierarchy on the road also…
The fast lane for the fast people. The people who are frenetic and go-get. And presumably for those who are late also.
The middle lane for the plodders. The Steady Eddies who will arrive safely and in-time but so what – because they’re never gonna light up any room.
And then the slow lane of course, for the elderly and the petrified. The drivers who are not restricted by any speed limits. 70 miles per hour is an option not a requirement.
All of these things… what we drive and how we drive are signals of who we are – which is why I so enjoy the motorway service station so much – where suddenly we all the same.
At the services, we are all just motorists who need a break. To stretch our legs. To possibly fill one tank and almost certainly to empty another. Men of a certain age might even take the opportunity to do the emptying twice. Before coffee and after.
And unlike airports, the motorway service station is hierarchy free.
There is no first class lounge.
In a service station, we all muck in together. A melting pot of humanity. Cheek by jowl (pre and post covid, obviously) the great unwashed next to the highly preened and sanitised.
In the service station and on foot, the status imbued by our car is gone.
Mr Rolls without his ride is now just an ordinary Joe like you and I, although he might still be identifiable. He might have nicer shoes. An expensive watch perhaps but he doesn’t get a special place to pee. He uses the exact same toilet facilities as the rest of us. No heated seat or attendant to shake anything here. And in my experience, it is best not stare too closely at someone in a public lavatory and especially not at a man’s wrist.
There are other giveaways of Mr Rolls. He is less likely to join the snaking queue for KFC or McDonalds.
In the UK, we have large warning signs aligning our roads – TIREDNESS KILLS. TAKE A BREAK.
But in the longer term, so can fast food laden with saturated fat but I keep this to myself as I pick up my sandwich and my cup of coffee.
A coffee smug, perhaps?
And this is why I enjoy the motorway service station. For its sense of representation and being such a leveller. Where we are all the same no matter who we are or what our means.
And then back on the road again, in my sensible car and in the slow or middle lane, I know that the Ferrari I spotted parked up will soon come by flashing by me; a blur of throbbing red in the fast lane and screaming for everyone’s attention. And I too, duly pay homage. Because for sure, this is a car of beauty and something to behold. And who can detract from the magnificent engineering and history of such a marque.
But ahead is a speed camera you Bell-End and I hope you get pinged.
And with this – Snap – we are back in the hierarchy again.
And life goes on…