I recently heard from a source wishing to remain anonymous, but living in the same house as I, that
she this person thinks I am teetering close to developing “road rage” in certain driving situations. I was going to furiously deny this accusation, but thought better of it and calmly requested clarification: “What the *eff* are you *eff*ing talking about?”
“You’ve pretty much identified it there,”
my wife this person responded. “Now, in all fairness — you don’t drive aggressively — but you use some very intense language when you feel another driver has encroached on your section of the roadway. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’m concerned that it may lead to an altercation one of these days.” Carol This person has also told me that I don’t take criticism well, so this was a double-whammy. Both my driving skills AND my temperament were being attacked. While my first impulse was to jump in the car and spin out of the driveway, I decided to respond in a more mature manner by merely sulking on the couch in front of the TV for several hours.
Once I came out of my funk, I contemplated whether perhaps
the love of my life this person had a point. I decided the next time I was behind the wheel, I would make an effort to remain more centered, and more forgiving of others’ behavior on the road.
As fate would have it, I encountered an opportunity to test my resolve the very next day. I had a series of errands to run, up and down a stretch of local road that is notorious in our area for spawning an inordinate number of traffic accidents. As I was about to pass through a green light at an intersection, at the posted speed limit, this happened:
- There was a car sitting in the left-turn lane on the other side of the road. The traffic signal would have been displaying a red arrow since traffic could not turn in front of the ongoing flow I was in the midst of.
- Despite the oncoming traffic, the signal, and the sizeable “NO U-TURN” sign hanging next to it, this driver ran the red light in order to make an illegal U-turn directly in front of me.
- They added insult to (near-) injury by sweeping broadly through the turn and ending up in the inside lane, directly in front of me.
- Worst of all — they took their sweet time to complete this maneuver.
I had to brake hard to avoid broadsiding the car as it cut across the intersection, and then brake hard again to avoid rear-ending the car as it took up a position directly in front of me.
Yes, I used my horn — but rather than an angered, sustained fermata, I opted for a series of reserved, delicate pizzicati. As we approached the next traffic light, the other driver made a sudden move into to the right lane (without using blinkers, natch). This meant we were now sitting next to each other once we’d stopped for the red signal. I felt the urge to engage in a conversation, indicating this with a mellifluous triplet of airy toots.
Once I caught their attention, I jerked my thumb over my shoulder to indicate I was referring to the prior intersection, shrugged my shoulders while raising my palms in the air, and mouthed — but did not speak aloud — words abbreviated by the well-known acronym, “WTF?” The other driver stared blankly at me for a moment before choosing to respond with a simple yet eloquent gesture: the extension of a middle finger. I resisted the urge to return my own double-barrelled salute, offering instead a cordial wave of my hand to indicate a response somewhere between, “Have a nice life,” and “Obviously you are the result of inbreeding.”
At this point, the light changed, with my nemesis quickly exiting to the right as I continued on my merry way down the road. When
the missus a certain person came home that evening, I related the details of this interaction, looking for — nay, expecting — recognition of my mindful rejoinder to this trying circumstance.
Nope, didn’t happen. Instead, these words: “Rather than rising above the situation, you once again chose to respond by honking your horn and introducing a vulgarity into the situation. And you don’t know why the driver made that move; maybe there was an emergency that required a sudden change in direction, or something else was going on to cause a distraction leading to an admittedly poor choice in operating the vehicle. Situations like that call for a compassionate response, not an angry one. You need to consider the other driver’s state of mind.”
After two beers and several more hours planted on the couch, I started to see
my life partner’s this person’s point of view, vowing to make an effort to find more of my Zen when behind the wheel. So, please keep this in mind: if you are the driver who runs through a red light and forces me to swerve to avoid a collision, or flashes your headlights when coming up behind me in the passing lane at an excessive rate of speed, or cuts me off in traffic so abruptly that I have to slam on my brakes — I will not honk, I will not gesture, I will not scream obscenities at you. I will instead remain calm as I dial 9-1-1 to provide the dispatcher with your license plate while reporting I saw you driving erratically after forcing someone into the trunk of your car.
I swear I will.