Have you noticed that…?

Thanks to power steering, hardly anyone crosses over their hands when turning the wheel of a car anymore? Can you remember the movement I mean? It used to be one of the major faults on the driving test and everyone did it. Left over right, right over left, dragging the wheel towards you as you leant your weight to exert the maximum possible pressure. But almost no one uses the technique these days. Like the chimps in 2001: A Space Odyssey we have evolved. Thanks to hydraulics. The future through technology. I remember trying to turn my mother’s ‘G’ registered Micra on the Four Lane Ends in Mapplewell back in about 1990. The Inspiral Carpets’ Life album playing on the tape deck, wondering how Bobby Robson’s lads were going to get on in Italia. Making that ninety degree turn from Towngate onto Spark Lane, I felt like I was working the wheel on the Hoover Dam, trying to hold back 9.2 trillion gallons of water. It was engineering that was still in touch with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stevenson. Now I can use one hand to easily and effortlessly turn the wheel of almost any modern car. A technique amply demonstrated by HGV drivers the world over; the other hand wrestling with the end of some gaffer tape and a feisty hitchhiker.

But evolution is not always good. It doesn’t always reap rewards. Like Penguins losing the ability to fly or Robbie Williams making it onto his hind legs and grabbing hold of a microphone. Sometimes evolution takes us places we don’t expect and didn’t plan to go. Like Yeovil. And on that subject, just think what Satellite Navigation could do to us. I was speaking to an Italian last week who told me that he found it difficult to drive in the UK because he couldn’t see the sun. Devo vedere il grande globo dorato nel cielo per fare il mio senso da Barnsley a Huddersfield. In a generation we will all be like that Italian thanks to our ridiculous over-dependence on Sat Nav. Through reverse evolution we will become like blind moles stumbling through a world we don’t understand, relying on unreliable technology to take us from A to B without appreciating in anyway the points between. But at least we’ll be able to turn the wheels of our cars easily when we drive heedlessly into Thurnscoe, announcing cheerfully to the rest of our passengers that we’re almost at Alton Towers. Hey everybody, get ready for some fun…

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