The Silence of the Lanes

I didn’t realise that I was doing it, but I’ve just found out that I’ve been tracking cars.

It’s probably because I read books whilst I walk. I even read them as I cross the road. I was doing it just now.

Without knowing it I tracked a car that had just passed me. I didn’t do it with my eyes, because they were firmly fixed on my book as I crossed the road. No, I was actually doing it with my ears.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but cars make swooshing noises as they move along. Most of the sound you hear, as a car goes by, is not actually from its engine, but from the sound its tyres make as they displace air from the surface of the road. Try it now and you’ll see (hear) what I mean. Stand by the road and pay attention to what you hear as a car passes by.

This particular car; the one I was tracking with my ears, had just passed me before I stepped into the road. Unconsciously, I tracked it as it drove away from me. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, the car vanished from my radar. It stopped making a sound!

I immediately became conscious of the silent car and I was even in the act of raising my eyes from the book I was reading when I realised what had happened.

A few weeks ago, men came, driving huge machines. Transporters arrived bearing even larger machines and deposited them onto this stretch of road. Barriers and signs followed and, quietly and efficiently, the road was closed off. Then machine and man set to work.

First they ripped away the surface of the road and carried it off to an unknown fate in lorries designed for that purpose. Then they tidied up the edges of the road before moving onto the final stage of their plan: they resurfaced the road!

The new tarmac was finer than the previous grade and the surface was (and is) smooth enough to skate on. I really hope that the cars passing don’t take that as an invitation when the colder weather arrives and rain freezes on the surface. There’s a roundabout and a school just down the road; both being really good reasons for cars to slow down.

For now, though, the only phenomenon the new ultra-smooth surface of the road creates is that it makes cars disappear. They vanish from my auditory radar and cause my eyes to pause, fractionally as they skip across the words of my book.

Still, it’s nice. Despite disconcerting my mind briefly and interrupting my reading minisculy, it’s nice that the road is quiet. If only it could happen more often and in more places. We don’t need a pandemic to cut down on the din from the traffic, we just need better roads. Perhaps now we’ve exited Afghanistan, a little more of the national budget can be diverted to this end.

Silent lanes of traffic. Who’s with me!

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