The car remained broken throughout the night, and the RAC man who came basically confirmed what my clever commenters suggested. I spent the whole night trying (and failing) to sleep on the station sofa, as there wasn’t a spare car for me to use.
The call was to someone who wasn't breathing.
I threw myself into the car, a quick look at the address, then I knew where I was going. I knew the best route, I knew how to avoid the worst of the traffic, and I knew I could make good time.
If she wasn't breathing, then my speed could save her life.
Blue lights were turned on, car was put into 'sport' mode (for better acceleration), trip counter zeroed and seatbelt on, I was ready to go.
I pulled out of the station, a quick look left and right, then left again showed no traffic. A couple of kids were standing outside the chicken shop on the corner – none of them were standing in the road (for once) so I made the sharp turn onto the road.
The first junction. Traffic here is forced into a single line – and drivers often don't see the blue lights as they concentrate on not hitting the parked cars. Thankfully there was no-one else on the road, so I turned right, and accelerated away.
The first hazard was the humpback bridge – visibility is poor, and while there is a crossing on top, kids sometimes cross just under the brow of the hill. The car hugs the road, which means that I can't see over the bridge until I'm already on top of it.
I ease off the accelerator, all clear – I gun the engine.
20, 30, 40 mph. I can see the next hazard, some shops leading up to the traffic lights at the junction. I slow down, right foot covering the brake pedal. A quick check, no-one is looking to cross the road, the car heading towards me has pulled over, and I have a free run to the junction.
And the red lights.
The siren goes on – it's loud, but the closed windows take away some of the sound. Light braking as I approach the junction, there is a queue of cars waiting for the lights (there always is) so I decide to take the wrong side of the road. I'm braking some more, it's a wide junction, so I can see what the other cars are doing. They are all waiting at the lights, the way is clear.
I swing the wheel round into a tight left turn, my folder and my bag shift in the passenger seat. The equipment in the back slides slightly, but are held in place by safety straps.
A good clear road, long and wide, just how I like them. I keep the siren going – it's sunny, and people might not see the lights. I pass the police station, a copper waves as he gets into his car. I wave back.
My eyes defocus, I don't know what I'm looking at, I try to take in the whole of the road and the pavement at once. Two kids on the right side of the road, but they are walking along, unlikely to interfere with me, one looks around at the sound of the siren.
A car ahead pulls out in front of me – can he not see me? He pulls over and lets me past as soon as he clears his turning. No matter, I had to bleed off some speed because I didn't know if he would pull out completely in front of me.
A slight hill. Visibility is less of a problem here, but I still can't go as fast as I'd like. I clear the hill – nothing, the road is clear and I power down towards the next junction.
More shops, more cars, the lights are with me, but I know this junction well – cars will often 'jump' the lights, so again, I'm forced to slow down.
I change the sound of the siren, it becomes more insistent, shriller. My eyes are still unfocused, I note the hazards – the woman with the pram looking to cross the road, the bus in front of me looking to pull away from the bus stop, the car waiting to turn right at the junction, the bike rider (is he weaving around a bit?).
Once more, my foot covers the brake, nothing changes, the woman waits on the kerb (good girl), the bus sits there (thanks mate), the car moves over slightly, clearing my way (good boy), the bike rider straightens up (excellent).
I'm through the junction, but the traffic gets heavier, I need people to pull over and let me pass. I have a choice – I can go down the bus lane, it's clear, but people can get confused and can pull in front of me. My other option, and the one I choose in a heartbeat is the middle of the road, forcing those on my side to pull into the bus lane, and those who can see me oncoming to pull over a little to let me pass.
I hear Obi-Wan Kenobi tell me to “Use the Force”.
I go wide – trying to make myself as big and noticeable as possible. Lights and sirens, yellow and green livery I should be easy to see. Some people don't pull over, I make them pull over. Oncoming traffic gets out of my way, they can see me from all the way down the road. One man however thinks it clever to flash his headlights at me and try to play 'chicken'. Obviously I don't realise I'm driving down his side of the road.
I swear. I swear at him loudly, he can't hear me, but it makes me feel better.
He is making me slow down. He gets out of the way, he has no choice – I give him no choice.
I continue down the road, gradually I pick up speed as the traffic gets lighter. I'm constantly looking to see if any silly pedestrian wants to run out in front of me. If people weren't so daft I could drive faster.
Now for the problem road. I swing into the High street, traffic is extremely heavy, shoppers are crossing the road, there is barely room for two lines of traffic, let alone that magical third lane I need.
I change the siren, then change it again, then again. It's a strange sound, and it gets everyone's attention. Cars slowly try to get out of the way, a bus holds its distance. Someone decides that they can run across the road before I reach them. They are wrong, I have to jump on the brake, luckily I'm not going too fast. I swear some more, then start off again. My speed is slow, my driving has gone from speed to squeezing through gaps.
Don't look at the cars, or you'll hit them I think to myself. I concentrate on the gaps between cars, some are very small. On an instinctual level I know which gaps I can make, and which ones I need to sit behind the cars, lights flashing, sirens blaring, until they make the gap wider.
How did I get here? I'm turning into the street I need – it's one way and the way ahead is clear. I'm glad, once more the parked cars make it barely wide enough for a single car.
I'm counting the door numbers – I'm looking for number 112. Odds numbers on the left, evens on the right. 288, I speed up then slam on the brakes for a speed hump.
Again, again, again. I curse the people who think speed humps are a good idea.
186, more humps – I pray no children are hiding between the cars. 172, 162, 128.
I slow down. I'm trying to see the numbers, but some are small, and some are missing, while I'm doing this I'm trying not to drive into a parked car.
The door is open.
I stop – there is nowhere to park, so I'm blocking the road, it can't be helped.
I grab my bags and run into the house.
“Where is she”, I ask. My eyes are taking in the house, is there anyone laying
on the floor?
“It's me”, comes the reply.
I breathe a sign of relief.
“I've had a cough for the past week and it hasn't gone yet”, she tells me.
Another normal job for me then.
Not reflective of any one job, more a reflection on all my jobs