something happens to me when i drive my car. my efforts at calm and my attempts to act with grace disappear the instant i hit the road. it’s not my fault, of course, it’s the other people i encounter. i’m blameless. i’m just one driver-error away from turning into a raging bitch. i’m not the only one, either. even the mildest among us develops a mouth worthy of a seasoned longshoreman when they’re out in traffic. what is it about being in a vehicle that strips us of our patience and good manners so quickly? what’s with all the rage?
i’m a good person most of the time. i’m nice to the point of doormat (working on it), kind, and pretty patient. i’m all these things until the moment i click the seatbelt into place. i remind myself before i back out of the drive that people will irritate me, that other people’s actions are not in my control, and that i need to chill but the message often doesn’t hold. regardless of the pep talk, i’m often pissed off before even leaving the subdivision.
that’s because the four-way stop a few blocks from my home is a problem for many. it seems to confuse. some people can’t seem to figure out when it’s their turn to go, thus causing all forward momentum to cease. other people seem to think that stop signs don’t apply to them and drive through with abandon, ignoring everyone else and the concept of taking turns. by the time i hit the main roads, i’m left with as much patience as a child on christmas morning holding their stocking and that is none. so much for my good intentions.
i know part of the issue is me and i will continue to work on my chill but what is it about driving that brings out the hostility? i’m patient when i queue at the grocery store. i don’t resort to obscenities if someone darts in front of me as i walk through the mall. what is it?
driver competence overall seems to be dropping. driving’s a skill that many drivers seem determined not to master. as for the rules of the road, large numbers of people seem to consider them optional extras, as though using a turn signal diminishes them in some way.
god help you if you’re a driver who slows down in a school or playground zone. i’ve had people behind me flash their high beams on numerous occasions to hurry me along. apparently, that extra few seconds added to the journey to keep children safe is an intolerable delay. where exactly are these people going and why is shaving off seconds so important? are they neurosurgeons racing to catch a plane to perform a tricky operation on a world leader in distress or is this just a trip to the grocery store? why are we all so impatient? you have to be sixteen years old to get a license, ostensibly because that’s when you’re mature enough, but the act of bestowing it seems to turn many of us back into toddlers. “i want what i want and i want it now!”
driving takes care of my “slow to anger” issues. i’m poised to notice and criticize others’ errors instantly, content with my belief that my own execution is utterly perfect. my opinion of others goes from tolerant to condemnatory with the smallest of mistakes, something easily observable if you’re a passenger in my car: “moron. dolt. idiot. what the fuck is wrong with you?” it’s a good thing i never require tolerance or grace from others on the road when i’m behind the wheel. aside from the incipient rage, i’m a driving master.
and by “master” i mean i tend to ignore all those self-improvement skills that i’m working on: staying in the moment, evaluating thoughts before i act on them, and remembering that i’ll encounter struggles and challenges but how i choose to respond is totally up to me. all that stuff is important to me yet when i get in my vehicle, something circumvents those pathways in my brain. i forget what i should remember and my patience disappears into the ether. i’m not alone in my affliction, either, based on situations i’ve observed while in the car. drivers raging at each other is utterly common.
the automobile seems to release the choke hold so many of us have on our anger. we’re all just one illegal left turn away from a complete and utter meltdown. i hate it. i don’t like the kind of person i act like when i let the anger come out. i don’t like the other people much either. it seems like a lot of us have decided that driving is a free pass to behaving badly, or that it’s okay to act up in the car because that’s not who we are, really. we’re wrong. maybe we should spend some time learning how to release our anger in healthier ways.
(june 19, 2018)