White van man
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Thanks for subscribing! Vote Are you sure you want to submit this vote? Submit vote Cancel. You must be logged in to vote. Report Comment Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Flag comment Cancel. In one category there are those for whom the van is simply a work tool — it is like a computer or an electric drill.
You have to have one, and you need to keep it working. But otherwise you have little personal feeling for it. In another category there are those WVM who positively loathe their vans.
These are usually the fleet delivery drivers who often drive a different van every day and couldn't give a cuss whether it has dents in it or not. The third category comprises those who express something akin to affection when talking about their vans. They emphasise the merits of the particular brand, contrasting it favourably with its competitors, and are prone to interior decoration and embellishment. They like their vans to be clean, but stop short of obsessive-compulsive neurosis. In the final group, however, are people who are in love with their vans. They give them pet names, treat them like members of the family and may drive them at weekends just for fun.
Even a flashing orange light on the roof, for use on motorway work sites, is pointed to with special pride. These are people who should be providing a good income for psychotherapists. WVM generally tends to have quite a high opinion of himself — and particularly about his driving skills. Most think that they are careful, courteous drivers — 'steady Eddies' in an unpredictable and dangerous traffic jungle.
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There is nothing, however, at all surprising about this. Male motorists in general share this tendency to make overly complimentary self-assessments. To admit that you are a 'bad' driver is not like saying that you cannot master the art of wallpaper hanging. It's a bit like confessing that you are lousy in bed. And WVM is no different in this respect. WVM also tends to see himself as non-aggressive — a view that many other road users might challenge. At the same time, however, he is no passive wimp. He sees his determination to pull out into the stream of traffic as merely 'assertive' — quite reasonable behaviour, and a tactic which is essential to making any progress at all on congested roads.
As a quid pro quo, however, WVM understands that other drivers need to make the same kind of manoeuvres, and will usually accommodate them. Our own, admittedly informal, observations of vehicles in which the drivers engage in 'letting out' at junctions is as follows: Taxis — never; buses — very rarely; female motorists — rarely; male motorists — slightly more frequently; white van drivers — usually.
Red traffic lights, for example, are sometimes seen as merely 'advisory'. Exceeding the speed limit, especially in towns, might simply be viewed as a necessary part of the job. And because WVM sees himself as a 'good' driver he may feel entitled to take the occasional overtaking risks which should not be attempted by mere mortals in ordinary cars. Increasingly, WVM is being sent for specialist training in driving skills. Interestingly, those drivers who had been sent on such courses did not see this as a patronising waste of time. They were proud of their certificates — testaments to the abilities they always claimed to have, but which were seldom recognised by others.
They took their job more seriously and were more likely to distance themselves from other van drivers as a result.
Most don't care, but some hate them, and we have some sympathy with their view. Imagine if we all had to carry such a sticker on the rear of our Vectras, Clios and Jaguar XJ6s, complete with a Freephone number but usually lacking the relevant apostrophe? How many of us would fail to irk some little busybody who has nothing better to do with his life than call up and report our failure to observe every little nicety of the Highway Code? The stickers, of course, are an American import — reflecting that country's desire for over-regulation of every aspect of public behaviour and the provision of yet more opportunities to make complaints.
People who call those Freephone numbers, both in the United States and here in Britain, rarely have anything nice to say because the sticker only invites complaints. Many drivers nearly half feel that because they are in a van, other motorists deliberately obstruct them, carve them up or generally behave in an antisocial way towards them. They may get better treatment from lorry drivers, who should have some sympathy for their smaller cousins, but taxi drivers are perceived as a particular menace. In contrast, however, other van drivers feel that the size of their vehicle can intimidate motorists into behaving more deferentially.
The relatively high driving position of a typical van also allows WVM to 'stare down' would-be rivals. The more typical WVM, however, doesn't seem to notice much about what other drivers are doing. His focus is on his own driving and on the speed of progress required to meet his schedule.
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For him, every car on the road is in his way — a state of affairs with which he is so familiar that he rarely gives it a second thought. Rather than constantly railing against his fellow road users, he more often retreats into a near Zen-like trance of inner contemplation in which the potentially ulcer-generating sources of frustration no longer exist.
Ambulance and fire appliance drivers have a very high regard for WVM. It is he, more than any other driver, who first notices the flashing lights and sirens and makes room for the vehicles to get through. This is in large part due to WVM's sense of civic duty. It is also the case that the relatively high driving position in vans, coupled with the need to use the large rear-view mirrors quite regularly, mean that van drivers are more likely to spot the approach of the emergency services.
It is also the case that vans rarely have those watt sound systems so often found in BMW 3 series, whose thumping bass woofers make even the most strident siren inaudible to the driver.
Unsurprisingly, this produced some strong opinions and colourful language. The majority of van drivers, however, gave more considered replies. Roughly a half thought that the image was partly justified. It did not, of course, apply to them personally — they were quite different, but they recognised that other van drivers deserved the criticism. Others identified particular types of WVM who deserved their media image. These included young drivers, newspaper delivery drivers, 'wide boys' and the 'odd maniac'.
Over a third of our sample, however, not only rejected the stereotype completely but provided sociological insights into the origin and function of the media image. Some, for example, pointed to the high visibility of white vans. A bad experience with one WVM was, therefore, generalised to all.
It was suggested that simply painting all white vans different colours might put a stop to this process. This article is about the British slang term.
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For the confidence trick, see White van speaker scam. Retrieved Life and style". The Guardian.