12.05.11 by jules
Normally, my ire does not get irked by other drivers. I tend to let people cut me off, tailgate me, pass me, and generally insult and endanger my ability to safely operate my motor vehicle in any way they please with very little reaction, except for a tiny sting of personal insult that I do my best to swiftly smother with rationalization and hakuna matatas. My response to the insanity that is the driver’s experience draws from a few principles that I have reasoned out and sometimes repeat, mantra-like, when suffering the indignity of sharing the road.
1. I often perform unintentionally thoughtless and rude driving actions by sheer accident; they may not have meant to do that. The take-away: we all drive stupid sometimes.
2. When I am in a horrible hurry I sometimes drive horribly; they might be trying to get to an exam, or their cat may be sick, or their sister’s car might have broken down in the freezing rain and she may have an immune deficiency that makes her especially vulnerable to consumption because she is also a French courtesan in love with a penniless sitar player. The take-away: it might actually be an emergency.
3. While ramming my car into their back bumper may feel nice for a moment the lack of a car, insurance hike, getting driven to work by my mother, I hate my life long-term results will feel a lot worse. And since the other driver is most likely wholly unconnected with my life I can only get stew and grouch and writhe in hatred against someone who will never hear about it and I only endanger my own happiness The take-away: I can’t afford revenge, financially or emotionally.
4. There are enough things in the world to upset me; children that aren’t loved, cultures that aren’t respected, the poor that aren’t shown compassion, environments that aren’t cherished, books that aren’t well-worn, $100,000 carpets. Why should I add anything as temporary as a road altercation to that list? The take-away: worry about things worth worrying about.
The other day, however, I actually had an honest-to-God, knock-down-drag-out, road rage fiasco. Ok, so it wasn’t really that bad, but consider that when my mantras are not effective I usually release driving frustrations by making photon torpedo sounds at the offender and envisioning the explosion of the Death Star. So here’s what went down:
It was a dark and stormy night. It was a grey and chilly Sunday morning. Walking out to my car, the stillness of the neighborhood was awe-inspiring. No dragsters revving engines, no kids screaming, no lawnmowers or stereos or anything. Just the songbirds, giving it the best they had. The air was crisp and clear and the sky was a gradient of grey from pole to pole, textured as though someone had spread the clouds with a knife like you would spread fluffy frosting on a sheet cake. My fanciful mind was giddy with the beauty of it all. I tried to snap pictures of the leafy trees dressed in yellow-orange against that darkish-lightish grey sky. A dozen tweet worthy thoughts came rolling up, but I needed to skedaddle to deliver a favor to a friend. The phrase that leapt to consciousness was from Statius’ Silvae, “Hush holds enmeshed each herd, fowl, prowling beast. The trees, capitulating, nod to aching sleep.” I meandered out of the neighborhood and made my way to the freeway. Stopped on the little, side road, I had to wait to turn onto the freeway feeder. A couple “oversized load” trucks and their escort vehicles were stopped farther down the feeder and the escort trucks were blocking the road, and they were far enough back that no one could get to the freeway entrance ramp. My first thought was, “Rude,” but there seemed to be some police lights flashing even farther down so I tried to be peaceful. Finally, the trucks started to roll and the line of vehicles waiting for the entrance ramp followed. Here’s where things got a little wild for me. You’re not going to believe this. It’s just crazy that anyone would try this move. So here’s what happened: I wait for a second while the entrance ramp line makes its way to the feeder because that’s the lane I want to get in and I don’t cut in line, those cars start to space apart and there’s a pretty little gap just the right size for me, I start to pull away from my little, side street aiming directly at that pretty gap, all of a sudden HOLY CRAP!!! the lady in the car behind me is now trying to pull around me and drive in front of me across the two lanes to my gap. What is going on in this woman’s head? I still don’t know. I slam on the brakes and give her what-for with my horn. She stops next to me. (My windows are rolled down.) “LET ME GO!” I yell (yes, I yelled *gasp*). She gives me a shocked look. Open mouthed, she gestures, palms up at the line of now moving vehicles. “THEY’RE STOPPED!” I bellow (yes, it was a bellow). While my last statement wasn’t entirely accurate, I think I meant to say, “They’ve been stopped and are just now beginning to move. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to get in that lane so why are you being a crazy person and trying to pull around me?” Unfortunately, my brain was too shocked at the insanity of this woman. Fortunately, she meekly allowed me to pull forward and take my place in line. About two seconds after getting in front of her I started laughing, but I still sped onto the freeway and down the road to avoid letting her catch up with me. It was so silly. I don’t know why she thought she should pull around me instead of beeping her horn. I can’t believe I actually lost it at her. I can’t believe I actually honked at her at the right time (my reaction there is usually a little slow). And most of all, I can’t believe we didn’t get honked at sitting there across two lanes of feeder road. But I am glad that she didn’t yell back. The irony is that all of my four anti road rage principles probably applied to her. The special irony is that she was dressed nicely. We would probably both be at a church sometime that morning.
So that’s my story. Like I said, after the initial indignation I couldn’t help but laugh and throw a “God bless you, crazy woman driver,” back down the road. Back to my mantras.
Statius 5.4, “To Sleep”