Thursday, September 17, 2009

Road rage

Just got home from running a few errands, mostly designed to increase my temperature.  I sat in line at a gas station, was about to pull up to a pump when a subaru swooped in from the other direction and took my spot.  Then I went to a fabric store, where I was almost hit as I was backing out because an SUV in the next row was backing at the same time. If the man about to get into his car beside me hadn't noticed and yelled at me I would have smashed or been smashed because the woman in the other vehicle wasn't about to stop for anyone, anytime, any place.

On the way home, I stopped in the left-hand lane at a light where the cross traffic is always busy.  This light is notorious for NOT turning green for this particular left-turn arrow, so much so that often, when Beve is driving, he turns when the light turns green for the straight through lanes.  I'm not as much of a renegade as Beve, so wouldn't think of breaking a traffic law, but especially not today when the car beside me was a police cruiser.  So I sat there while the light turned, then turned again.  Then I rocked the car back, hoping to trip the sensor which would make the light change for my lane.  To no avail.  Four times that traffic light made its loop without the green arrow ever appearing.  Am I just stupid for obeying traffic signals, or what?  Finally, on the fifth circuit, I drove straight through the light, up that street and turned around so I could make a 'right on red' turn before my hair turns gray and my body calcifies from inactivity.  As I turned, I watched another car pull into that left-turn lane.  Poor sucker, I thought, as I drove away.

I don't have often have road rage myself...though I'm certainly not immune to it.  Sure, I've been the target of flipped birds on occasion, usually by men, but not always.  I always feel ashamed of whatever small infraction I might I done to cause such disproportionate anger.  But years ago, as Beve and I were on the freeway in our van with our three small chublets secured in their carseats, we saw firsthand, how dangerous roadrage could really be. I don't remember what Beve had done--whether he'd moved into a lane too quickly, or was driving too slowly, but suddenly, a big ol' low-riding sedan pulled up beside us on the passenger side (where I was) and two heads appeared out the window of this other car. Rather graphic epithets were spewed toward us, ones we couldn't hear through our rolled up windows and the roar of their engine.  But we could imagine they weren't phrases we wanted our children to hear.  Beve slowed down so the car would pass us, but though it moved into the lane in front of us, it also slowed down, until we almost hit it.  Then it moved back beside us on Beve's side, and I'm pretty sure there was taunting going on, though I ducked down in my seat, and tried to ignore it.  Beve decided to get off the freeway, though we weren't near our exit, hoping to lose our 'companions'.  But they got off with us, and tailed us for a while.  Finally, sensing, I suppose, that we weren't anxious to get into it with them, the engine was gunned on the other car and they took off in a cloud of smoke (not really, but you know what I mean!).

That incident scared the living daylights out of me.  And the nightlights, too, come to think of it.  I imagined a gun sticking out their open windows, and our tires shot, if not one of us.  Ever since then, I've been determined to take responsibility for whatever I do in my vehicle that might cause another to become annoyed.  Even little things like not turning on my turn signal soon enough, or moving into a lane too quickly from an on-ramp on the freeway.  I raise my hand and mouth my apology, even when I'm pretty sure whatever happened wasn't actually my fault.  Like backing out too quickly in a parking lot, or cutting someone off at the gas pump.

What does it hurt to apologize, after all? Life is too short to get mad about things we can't do anything about, and perhaps even shorter, if we blame other people for inconveniences in our driving--or in our lives.  How do we treat those around us?  How do we respond to others on the road? Are we surrounded by idiots who don't know how to drive...or by others who are just like us--doing the best they can, but sometimes making mistakes? Maybe our reactions to others on the road could be pictures of how we react to others in our lives.  You think?

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