Sure, motorway stops are set up for cars, but humans must leave the vehicles at some point to satisfy their fleshly needs.
Frequently this means an undignified, heartbeat-thumping mad dash from the car park to the eatery-cum-toilets complex, cars coming unexpectedly from every poorly signposted direction, pavements, where they do exist, an afterthought.
Visitors must dodge cars coming and going chaotically as they squeeze in and out of too-tight spots and reverse with blind faith, drivers increasingly desperate as they try to divine the way out to the slip road.
Perhaps this gauntlet is deliberately designed, a prelude to the till-rattling and toilet paper-strewn facilities; so thankful are visitors for their continued mortality, they accept this as their lot.
Even the nice service stations are like this, whether it’s the school holidays or not. Little oases of amenities and sustenance, milking the tired, aching patrons who come to them in need, and by that point, after the flash of metal, squeal of tires, and frayed nerves, even blatant overcharging for a single Mars Bar feels like a blessing, sweetness promised at the end of the transaction.
In the midst of all that communal stress from frazzled drivers and their wan, regretful-looking passengers, strength is needed for the remaining three hours of M6 gridlock, the spend justified as an act of self-soothing. If nothing else, if there is no hope nor humanity in this place, you might well treat yourself.
Yet all the shuffling for space on the forecourt – think Robot Wars crossed with The Floor is Lava – reminds me of forceful pavement cyclists much closer to home.
Cyclists, who generally deserve both better town planning and sympathy for the awful riskiness of their endeavour, know what it’s like to be a small fish swimming alongside more powerful predators, cycling lanes where they do exist so frequently blocked by cars, poorly placed bus stops and general debris. No wonder some of them take to the pavement in self preservation.
But, providing you have already leapt to safety, look into the face of a man hurtling between pedestrians by bike and you will see an expression of sheer individualism, and beneath that, rigid unwillingness to consider the danger they themselves might pose to others.
As schoolchildren and dogs scatter, the pavement cyclist’s momentum is fuelled just as much by self-righteousness as by overdeveloped calf muscles. The only time these cyclists possess more certainty, when not dominating the pavement, is when they’re arguing online about it.
So much of transport is optimised for shifting bits of metal about. How relegated the pedestrian is!
Leg room is in terminal decline, our comfort always secondary to the stuff that can be transported alongside us; even fixtures and fittings, like slanted benches on the underground, make clear the corporeal form is disapproved of.
At best, we’re a conduit for cash, and so are tolerated. One ticket entitles passengers to be squeezed, rushed, poked, prodded, and bothered, made to feel like an inconvenience, and for this privilege, the price goes up all the time.