''SLOW down, dad. Slow down!''
''You're driving too fast!'' It's our daughter. She's seven, she's fearless and on her first drive in our brand-new-to-us, old-to-someone-else car. For the record, I'm doing 50 in a 60 zone and there are no other cars on the road. If there was a policeman with a radar gun, he'd be pulling me over for going too slowly.
''Please, dad. Slow down!''
So I gave the anchors a nudge and dropped back to 30. Jasper sighed with relief.
''What's with the speed, darling?'' I said. ''Why d'you want to go slow?''
''Because, daddy, you're driving a Volvo now.
''You have to drive like an idiot.''
Hmmm, I thought. Either one of the school dads has found out we've crossed to the automotive slow side and told her all Volvo drivers are idiots, or she's heard someone she respects and adores curse Volvo drivers before. A lot. Maybe while in the passenger seat of our old car.
How she came to the opinion that Volvo drivers are idiots is neither here nor there. For all I know, that whole ''Bloody Volvo Driver'' campaign snuck into her subconscious as a two-year-old and it's taken the shock of being in one to set the imagery free.
It's interesting, though. I never thought I'd become one, you know? Not that there's anything wrong with being a ''Bloody Volvo Driver''. Not really. Having swapped notes with my wife, we've both noticed we're driving more carefully than before.
But I do feel less respect from other drivers. Just the other day, some buffoon on a moped was shaking his head at me as
I considered a right-hand turn. He was on a moped, barely a step up from a pushbike. He was wearing one of those trendy faux black leather jackets with Ducati across the back. He gesticulated at the back of my car like he was in Rome and he was cool, with an accent and everything. The nong wasn't even wearing a full-face helmet - what is it with the moped crowd who think they can get around in thongs and shorts? Bitumen doesn't care what you're riding, only what's protecting you.
Anyway. He gave me the whole head-shaking Volvo knob-with-the-family-stickers-on-the-back-window action. And I really wanted to say to him - as I checked for the eleventeenth time to see if it was clear to go - that I'm not really a Volvo driver. And I'll scrape the stupid stickers off when I get a chance. And, really, I'm not a bloody Volvo driver because I'm not.
Or I wasn't. But then, on Thursday, when the guy in front of me jumped on his brakes for no apparent reason, I jumped on mine and the hazard lights. It was to warn the guy behind that he should take care. There was a hazard, there was cause for caution.
This would never have happened in our last car. Trading cars shouldn't mean trading driving personalities. Do I cave in to the pressures of the Volvo and finally go to the optometrist for driving glasses? Is it time to buy driving gloves? Get a beret? Grow my hair for a comb-over?
Or is it time to help reinvent the image of the most maligned driver on the road?