Feel free to remind me exactly when our society totally lost its patience

The beautiful city of Ely - if you're in a car and spot James, please have a little patience...

The beautiful city of Ely - if you're in a car and spot James, please have a little patience... - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

James Marston has driven himself into a bit of trouble - but it has got him thinking about why nobody has any patience anymore

I made a mistake the other day.

I hold my hands up.

I was in the ancient town of Ely turning right and I wasn't concentrating and ended up sort of stuck in the middle of the junction until the lights changed.

It's not as if I'm that familiar with Ely.

It's one of those places I know but don't know that well, if you know what I mean. So driving around the ancient city – I think it calls itself a city even though it's on the small side – isn't natural. And for a moment I wasn't concentrating or wasn't looking at the right traffic lights.

It wasn't as if I was in the way but the looks and mouthed obscenities – including from what appeared to be two ladies who I wouldn't have put down as foul mouthed – and the ubiquitous sound of horns being beeped made me think these people, rude, must have either assumed I made as small mistake on purpose just to get in their way and slightly disturb their day or people from Ely and thereabouts are just unpleasant.

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The experience angered me to be honest. I never sound my horn at anyone, ever. It's not nice.

And the mouthed obscenities shocked me, as did the offensive hand sign offered by what I assume to be a self-satisfied nincompoop – his newish Range Rover with a private plate drew me to this obvious, if slightly prejudiced, conclusion.

Indeed it made me wonder if drivers of certain types of cars are more prone to getting het up than others – perhaps you can share your thoughts on this possibility?

Anyway the experience made me think how impatient we all are with each other when we are on the road. My mother tells me she too has been beeped at now they have put traffic lights in the A11 roundabout at Barton Mills because people don't expect her to take a certain exit despite executing the manoeuvre in the right way and in accordance with the Highway Code.

The other week I briefly fell out with a friend because I didn't reply to a text message in a certain amount of time he proscribed and he assumed I was being offensive. I was busy, that's all.

Looking at the amount of personal debt in families today it wouldn't be hard to assume few people wait, save up, and buy when they can afford something, perhaps because it requires patience.

It seems like patience is a long-forgotten and disused mode of behaviour, or the ability to hide one's impatience is a social skill that is no longer extant. While I suspect some level of impatience enables us to motivate ourselves and act quickly when required, a lack of patience seems to me to be causing all sorts of trouble.

Once upon a time patience was considered a virtue, a highly prized attribute that set people apart, that we no longer seem to value at all.

On the contrary, it seems to me that impatience is too often our default position, a state of mind that is clearly causing a great deal of unhappiness as when we are denied what we want quickly and what we think we deserve. And when that happens, when we can't get what we want, it all too soon becomes everyone else's fault. Impatience is also a shocking lack of generosity shown from one to another – but that's a different story.

On the plus side I'm fairly confident driving around Ely now and shan't make the same mistake again. I daren't.

Do you find patience a lost virtue? Do you sound your horn at other drivers? Are you frequently angry with people who make mistakes? Have you been sworn at by women? Drop James a line at james.marston@archant.co.uk