It has been an issue since secondary school when, after a panicked daily dash to assembly, I'd score a half-decent seat and, somehow, never be last in.

Thus, here I was again, verging on late for that first commitment of the day — a seminar in Whangarei which, all going well, I'd reach just before start time.

But on our gravel road, the shiny 4WD ahead of me puttered along snail-like. Okay, I resolved. On the next straight I'd pass. It would be easy.

When the opportunity came I veered right, but so did the 4WD. Despite being designed to deal with rough stuff, the driver had bypassed a proliferation of potholes. And fair enough. Maybe.

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I dropped back and trundled in its dusty wake figuring that, thanks to rural protocol, the driver soon would pull over and let me pass. Before the bridge? No. Atop the hill where a drive entrance allows for such manoeuvres? No.

As I sometimes tow a horse float, it's natural for me to defer to faster drivers. The farmer's also good at this. On holiday, he'll pull aside when someone comes up fast behind us. Locals know the road, have driven it a thousand times.

But this driver ambled on. Slowly. When we hit tarseal, would they up the speed or not?
I took the initiative on the next long straight where good visibility made passing as safe as being on a motorway. As I passed, I had no sense the driver slowed or pulled over to make my manoeuvre safer, as I tend to do even on state highways. Instead she slammed her hand on the horn.

Whoops. Sorry. Can't think why my passing bothered you. Felt uneasy though, until a few weeks later when my float and I pulled aside on the same patch of road to allow a 4WD to rocket past. If it had joined the fray that morning it would have left us both far behind.
Later on the day of the seminar as we headed for a barbecue, I reported the incident to the farmer who said, "Maybe the driver hadn't seen you?"

Light dawned. Maybe so. I often keep an eye on who's behind me.

At the party, locals who know the pothole-bedevilled stretch of road suggested the same thing — and said that maybe the 4WD driver didn't want dust on their vehicle. Both ideas resonated.

At least I do regular rear-vision checks. I could picture myself doing them. I'm especially vigilant on busy motorways as I don't want to be sandwiched in a pile up. And I also tend not waste energy getting annoyed with other drivers.

That evening I couldn't help a flush of righteousness for being a responsible rear-vision checker. Until I remembered day of the ducks.

Heading east on SH12, I curved up a hill and spotted four ducks on the roadside. It was a semi-residential area, so I figured they were tame. They also looked young — and about to make a foolish mistake.

Sure enough, they set off across the road in front of me a tidy line. Without thinking, without looking, I braked and pulled over.

The following vehicle, a 4WD ute, sailed on past. Three ducks made it but the unlucky last, and possibly the most sensible which may be a metaphor for all sorts of things including world peace, dithered.

Bam! It skyrocketed into space in a flurry of feathers and flopped onto the road. It died in my hands. After placing it on the verge where its mates had fled, I set off feeling cross with the driver — until I realised . . .

If the following vehicle had been, say, been a tanker, truck and trailer unit or had a dreamy driver at the wheel, the life of more than a duck might have been at stake.
Lucky me. The vehicle had passed safely. There was no oncoming traffic. The driver was watching the road. And, most important, he didn't do something stupid for the sake of a dithering duck.

It never pays to feel righteous — about anything. Such a pity.