I don’t get road rage. I really don’t. Every once in a while I have a bad day and I might grumble at a slow person, and whenever I drive in Pittsburgh I will let out a string of Pittsburgheze. But these aren’t common occurrences. I’m a pretty placid driver.
No, I don’t get road rage. Unless… unless someone else is exhibiting road rage. And then I’m mad as hell. I get road rage at the people who get road rage.
I don’t know if it’s some righteous anger business. Maybe it is. (It probably is not.) I think it’s probably the result of mixed panic, overstimulation, and a compassionate sense of justice. I mean, come on, where’s the justice in tailgating someone who’s going five over the speed limit? Where’s the compassion in flipping someone off? And what the hell are you honking for? It’s taking me a while to lift my foot off the brake!
Yesterday I was on my way to Pittsburgh, and to be honest, I was in a sour mood. Something had ruffled me before I left the house, and then the previously sunny day had gone all gray, and then it started raining, and I can never seem to get the windshield wiper speed right. It’s either molasses-slow or ADHD-fast. I stopped at a light, and when it turned green, I took my foot off the brake, and suddenly heard six indignant horn blasts to my left.
Sluggishly and sullenly, like a toddler woken too soon from a nap*, I looked over. The lady in the huge brown SUV in the left lane hadn’t been honking at me; she was angry with the guy in the beat-up Toyota pickup in front of her, who was taking his (reasonable) time turning left. The sheer injustice of it all overwhelmed me. I was suddenly seized with road-rage road rage. My own horn looked incredibly inviting. I made a decision. I honked six little indignant horn blasts of my own, with a smug staccato that mirrored SUV lady’s. I felt a thrill of power and righteousness.
And then, terrified at my own strength, I scanned the area for police cars.
And then, by the time I’d gotten another mile down the road, I felt terrible.
And then I repented.
And then I kept myself from crying.
And then I wondered if SUV lady felt as bad as I did.
Road rage does no body good.
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*Though, let’s be honest: anyone waking up from a nap is like this.