Monday, March 10, 2008

Road rage

You know the scenario and have probably seen and done it a million times.

You're driving along - maybe in a hurry because you're running late - and somebody cuts you off. The frustration turns to sheer rage, and you futilely yell through your closed window at the person who just cut you off. Or maybe the highly unskilled driver drove in such a way that almost caused an accident, which was saved only by your excellent defensive driving skills, and you laid on your horn to let them know of your disgust. I'd even go out on a limb and wager that almost all of you have even raised that ubiquitous middle finger a time or two.

I'm ashamed to say I have.

Generally speaking, I am a rational driver. My "mild" OCD tendencies almost always have me heading out the door with time to spare, ensuring that my drives are smooth and even. The purchase of a car that came equipped with wireless headphones and a DVD player has left me with an immense amount of peace and quiet time from the children.

In short, my car rides are usually not rage-filled ones.

After leaving the race track of the California freeways behind me, I find myself quite at home here in the sleepy Midwest, where no one even goes the actual speed limit - they go below it. I try to not get annoyed when I'm stuck behind one of the locals, especially when I see that it's an elderly silver-haired poodle, nervously peeking up over the steering wheel.

The other day, I happened to witness the typical road-rage driver. A vehicle pulled out in front of a woman, and she laid on the horn, immediately accelerating to within inches of the bumper of the offending car. She raised her middle finger and furiously shouted expletives. She followed so closely behind this other car that I was bracing myself for the accident that was sure to happen.

And a few miles later, when she turned off onto another route, she made sure to let the other driver know she still had not forgiven them for causing her to hit that light exactly 1.2 seconds later than she otherwise would have.

Closer examination of the offending car revealed a sweet little elderly man in a black houndstooth fedora, driving with his wife by his side. [I don't know what it is about the fedora on an old man. LOVE. IT. Can't even stand how much I love it. Ahhh. I digress.]

But here was the cutest little couple - probably somebody's grandparents, for crying out loud - driving to the doctor's office, or the grocery store. Sheesh, they're just old. Let's cut them some slack.

I have been unable to shake the incident from my mind. I'm disturbed on several levels. What is it about feeling safe behind a pane of glass that allows our ugly selves to come out?

Just imagine being at the grocery store and someone cuts you off with their cart. You immediately start yelling, you flip them off, and you push your cart to within inches of their heels, all while yelling at them for being so stupid.

Can you imagine the horror?

Why then do we see that as a viable option when we're behind the wheel?

Have you ever honked and yelled at someone in your car, only to realize afterwards that you actually know them?

What possesses us to get so angry? What bravery we don when no one can talk back or even apologize.

I would just love to have everyone take a deep breath, realize we all have places to get to, and stop being so damn mad all the time. It's just pathetic. We're all human beings. In a society. What have we to be so upset about?

Discuss.

36 comments:

DanandCindy said...

Wow!!! Blogger Christie solves all of the worlds problems, once again... Bravo. Can't we all just get along...

Kelly A. said...

Clearly you've never pushed a cart through the Walmart in my neighborhood.

Hollyween said...

I have a story:
I was driving to work one day (several years ago) and I swear to you that I didn't see the car that I accidentally pulled out in front of. And when I pulled out in front of him, it was a very mild case. I immediately got in the other lane when I realized my mistake. The crazy woman tailed me within inches of my bumper ALL THE WAY TO WORK. I thought she was going to shoot me. She finally turned around and went on her merry way. I was in total horror of her actions.

On another side of things, I believe A LOT of the old people on the road should NOT be driving. My husband works at a print store. A 97 year old woman recently hit the gas pedal instead of the break and went all the way through the store. She got out without a scratch, didn't apologize and got mad when she asked to buy stamps and found they weren't sold there. Sigh.

Kristy said...

A humbling account of road rage:
On not too many occasions I have succumbed to the urge to yell "jerk" & slap the steering wheel when cut-off or otherwise dealing w/ (what I thought were) inept drivers. Then one day I was driving with my 2 kids in the back, when I accidentally pulled out & crossed into the inside lane. Realizing that I had cut in front of someone, I did the "I am SO sorry face & hands" which were not well received. My daughter (age 6 at the time) quietly said, "Mama, I guess he thought you were being a jerk." Yep, they watch EVERYTHING we say & do.
Yeah, we need to relax & cut people some slack.

Kimberly and Devon said...

I hate to admit it, I too, once, flipped the finger at someone, while driving, and felt totally guilty afterward. Totall uncalled for, what was I thinking?! I haven't flipped the finger since.

dcrmom said...

I don't get it anymore, but I used to, MAN, did I ever! LOL! Having kids has mellowed me, I guess. Or maybe it's that frumpy minivan. Hard to feel all badass in a minivan. ;-)

Hey, your post is scheduled to go up at dark-thirty a.m. Make sure to let your readers know you're over there! :-)

Jenny from Chicago said...

I stopped using my middle finger when my children came along...but the desire, ah, the desire to use it comes up every time someone fails to give a cpurtesy wave when i let them into traffic.

Melissa Walker said...

Hi Stie-yep that was a Chicago treat from me--if you're ever up this way, let me know and I'll show you the sights! (At least the kid friendly ones--not the night clubbing ones)

Becky said...

It's true. Something about being in the car lets us forget that there is a human in the other one. It's car against car- I have thought of that one lots. Sad for the old couple. Relax people!

Jessica said...

I am not a poor driver. Really. I just am always in a hurry, and am distracted by my kids, so when I feel annoyed at something someone does...I can usually remember when I've done a VERY similary thing. And have hoped others will give be the benefit of the doubt.

Nice post. (and WAY nice comments on the Letters blog. thanks!)

calibosmom said...

AMEN!!! We all need to just "Chillax"(new word in our house). Ye who have not sinned, cast the first "finger"!

Lauren said...

That was so insightful...I have never thought of road rage the terms of comparing it to the shopping carts. Great analogy!
Recently I accidentally drove up the wrong aisle in the grocery store parking lot....so, my the parking lines were slanted the wrong way for me to park, (does that make sense) A man yelled at me to "F" myself and called me a stupid, Bit**!" Really, sir...it was an honest mistake. I don't think the situation was that serious...I didn't mean to block you from turning in at that very second...Please allow me to get the heck out of your way! Forgive, forgive!!!
Your post was truly great commentary about the need for people to calm down!

2happy+2 said...

Every morning on my way to work there is this road that splits off and everyone knows you must get in the right hand lane in order to merge. I have to say I have been a butter, but in my defense I only do it if there is two car lengths open to do so. There are people that just come over whether your there or not. They just figure you'll move or lose it.
My pet peeve is when someone will hold up the lot of you to correct a driving error or figure out they are going in the wrong way or in the wrong lane. I have never done that. I will keep going and turn around in a parking lot or where there is no traffic. I don't know what it is about society that makes them think where they are going is more important. Big dummies!!!!! No really, what's up with that?

Kristin said...

I am not a perfect driver, by any means, and I have been know to have a little rage as well. Two bad qualities. My most memorable was when I cut someone off, realized I did it and tried to wave an I'm sorry wave. She proceeded to honk and rev her engine, so my little sister gave her the finger. I speed away thinking, this is a large lady who is going to whip our butts. I've calmed down a lot since them, except when I'm with my sister, she stirs the pot.

Amanda said...

Okay, here is my story. I was 17 (maybe 18) and standing on a corner with a friend. A car almost ran us down and I shouted and flipped the driver off. Then the driver turned the corner and it was this little old man and I felt so guilty after. I have never flipped anyone off since then.

I am usually a pretty calm driver but I do call people idiots when I am driving. Hmm. Wonder why my youngest is constantly calling people idiot!

Dancin Queen said...

Heard a funny story in church Sunday. I don't think it was a true one, just one of those emails that gets forwarded that the teacher used with her lesson. It was about a driver who stopped at a yellow light, but the driver behind was wanting to speed through and had to stop. She was angry, so yelled obsenities out the window and made a gesture. A policeman observed the incident and took her to jail. She was released later that day, and the police officer explained that he noticed her behavior, but after he read her bumper stickers on the car, "Follow me to Sunday School" "I love Jesus" etc., he naturally assumed that the car must be stolen! Loved it!

Denae said...

Stie, I have had this exact same thing happen to me. I mean, I definitely have road rage sometimes and once I saw it displayed so horribly that it shocked me and I have calmed down so much since then. It is so true that a pane of glass makes you feel hidden enough that you can be so mean and horrible to people. And when it's old people it's so sad. I had to laugh my head off when you described someone doing that in a grocery store!! That would never happen so why does it happen in cars?!? So funny but sad. Sorry for my bad english and punctuation in this comment I'm in a hurry.

RobynandJoe said...

So funny...especially because I've definitely been there. I think my road rage was MUCH worse when I was a commuting, working woman. I remember once shortly after Parker was born, driving in the car with Joe and a friend. A lady did something that made both of them mad and I was totally oblivious to whatever happened. They both lifted their arms at the lady (not the finger, mind you) and I just laughed...happy not to be in that world!

Bridget said...

So true, friend. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt on the road. We are a very impatient and self-serving society.

I think it is just horrible to see old people getting yelled at. It's just wrong.

Lindsey said...

Oh Stie, this is why I love reading your blog... namely the admission of using the middle finger, (I just can't imagine- and it made me giggle) and the use of the word damn... because, sometimes you just have to say it. :)

Celia Fae said...

I have this friend who is really a sister who used to spell cuss words at other drivers because she couldn't say them anymore. She had to stop eventually. I think I have to make a conscious effort not to have road rage. It is just not worth it to get so worked up. I do hate being late because of another driver, though.

Jenibelle said...

HUGE problem at our house, my husband goes NUTS at inconsiderate drivers.
Once when we lived in LA, I wagged the universal sign for "I'm pissed" at a crazy driver. At the stop sign he got out of the car and started running up to my door!!! I was so scared I ran the stop sign and hauled tooshie out of there. My 16 year brother in law was with me. He was very impressed.
Now we work at the same school and he tells his students the story about Mrs. G. in the DISCIPLINE office flipping someone off. Nice.
I have great relatives.

HILLARY said...

How bout at costco when your in the long line waiting to leave the blasted place and everyone is waiting patiently. Then some idoit saunters up from behind not thinking they have to take their fair share of another line. I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT!

Laurie said...

One of my college roommates taught me the "thumbs up" as a substitute for the middle finger. The sarcasm seems to diffuse the rage. If that's possible.

Although, just last summer I let all kinds of fingers and foul words fly when a semi-truck turned left INTO MY LANE while I was waiting at the red light. I honked and honked, and finally resorted to reversing in a panic so this idiot didn't plow into the front of my car--with all my kids inside. If he'd had a number on the truck, I'd have called it. If he'd hit me, I'd have sued him AND his company. Seriously.

gab said...

My friends' husband had to go to jail for road rage. Yep...it is true. Be careful.

Annie said...

Amen.

I do use the horn now and then (what Boston driver doesn't?) but I think of it as a communication tool not a punishment and only in important situations (like "don't hit me" or "I'm over here" or "your turn")

I like the thumbs up idea, though :)

Rochelleht said...

Never flipped, never sworn, but I have said the 'kid swear words' like, idiot and stupid. They get after me every time. Keeps me on my toes, which is good. But there is something about that horn...

Such a great post. I would have wanted to just pull the cute old couple over and love on them. So sad.

Emy5 said...

I try not to get angry at other drivers. It happens way more that they are angry at me for doing nothing terribly wrong. I try to ignore them, even though they can be pretty threatening. Defensive driving skills, people!

What gets me is using the horn to hurry someone up as a stop light turns green. I usually give people at least one second to notice!

pinkmommy said...

My friend's husband got cut off and gave the guy the finger...a closer look revealed that the guy was our preacher. And the guy definately saw and recognized him. After hearing that story, I have never given the finger again. Although I do give other drivers a good talking to in the privacy of my car when my daughter isn't with me.

Ashlee said...

I saw something similar to this on the freeway last month. Dumb car was riding another car and flashing his brights off and on because the car was driving too slowly. Dumb thing was...he could have just gone around it, there were no cars in the other lane making it impossible for him to get past the slow people. But, dang it...they were in the fast lane....which must have given him every right...right? All I see is something that has a death wish. The only people I yell at while driving are the dolts that pull out directly in front of me and my cute little car. I carry precious cargo...if they caused an accident because of THEIR carelessness..mama would be angry. But slow drivers? I just go around them. They usually end up looking like my grandpa. I'd never yell at him. :0)

Are You Serious! said...

♥ I completely agree with you! I do have a harder time when it's a careless teenager! Although I don't flip them the bird or yell! I do mutter under my breath though! Great post!

Sparky said...

I cut people off with my grocery cart inside the local walmart all the time... expletives, tailgating, the one finger salute.

What's your problem?

"It's a world... where the dog eats the dog..."

Autumn said...

I just blogged about something like this that happened to me last week. The guy actually formed a T at the front of my car on a busy street in RUSH HOUR and got OUT of his car to come after me. I mean, seriously? All because I beeped because he suddenly came over to my lane.. and I did it because I thought he didn't see me! Nothing malicious about it.

My heart breaks for older couples like that. Thinking that something horrible could have happened in a situation like that makes me so upset!

Mique (as in M-i-c-k-e-y) said...

Surely this was not directed at me. I get a pass since I live in LA traffic hell. I know you meant to direct at someone else.
But you would be proud of me today I held off on honking because this post changed my outlook. Ok, I lie- I held off on 3 separate occasions, but the 4th one just put me over the edge. The plexiglass made it easier I tell ya. I just had to let her blow.

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