Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Angry Place

There is too much anger in the world. Just reading the newspaper depresses me because of how mean people are to those with different opinions. I always thought people could not like someone without it descending into frothing maniacs that seem to think insults equal proof.

When I was in college, I commuted from my parents’ home. It usually wasn’t that bad. But there are two incidents that stand out in my mind as being absolutely frightening. Neither one should have happened, but did because…actually, I don’t know why. I just can’t see why people would be that angry.

The first happened during the morning rush hour. I was coming down an exit, two lanes merging as they joined with the three congested lanes of the highway. Normally, traffic zippers in. A car from the right lane, a car from the left, back to the right, back to the left. But there are always people who want to cut off the other lane to get in 0.5 seconds sooner.

I was in the left lane merging into the highway when a utility truck pulled up next to me, trying to force me back so he could get ahead. But people on the highway were trying to get over in time for the next exit and I was boxed in. I could have dropped back, in fact I probably should have, but he was trying to cut me off and I didn’t like it. I was almost on the highway and this guy was trying to push me out of the way just to get ahead. When I saw that he was still pushing in, I honked my horn, mistake number two. Unfortunately, by this time I was completely surrounded. I kept honking my horn, worried he just didn’t see me as people from the left lane came in from the front and the back. Finally, he dropped back, honking his horn back at me.

I felt vindicated. That was stupid. I was wrong. I admit I should have just let him cut me off to keep the peace, and that I didn’t because of some stupid pride. But that doesn’t give him the right to tailgate me, honking his horn and flashing his lights. I pull into the left lane, he follows. I pull back into the right, so does he, still tailgating. Finally, traffic separated us and he waved when he pulled ahead. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I moved into the left most lane in preparation for an exit. It was moving faster than the other lanes and I passed him again. I wasn’t even thinking about it when he pulled in behind me, cutting someone else off, and started tailgating again. I pulled into the center lane just to get away from him. As he went by, I noticed the car he cut off following him.

Whatever wrong I did him, was this an appropriate response? Why do people feel so angry when they drive that they have to come after people for an unnoticed mistake? Which brings me to my next story.

It happened during the morning commute again, but this time while I was near the college. The road to the school is a double yellow and a van had stopped to make a left hand turn. I moved over to the right to try and get around, but the shoulder is small and he didn’t leave much room. I ended up waiting rather than chance the uneven terrain on either side of the road (this college was kind of far out for someone used to the dense eastern coast of America:).

But the person behind me disagreed. He honked, flashed his lights, flipped me off a lot. I raise my arms in a “What do you expect me to do?” gesture. I’m not risking my tires, all right? I thought he got it.

He did not.

The traffic was just enough so we had to wait a little for the van to make his turn. Like a minute. For me, this wasn’t a problem. He finally moved and the path was cleared. I noticed the car behind following me, but figured it was just another student (well, I was right). I drove into the parking lot, parked. Again, he was near me, but so were a lot of other arrivals.

I had a half an hour before class started, so I took my time organizing my books. Then I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed him glaring at me, mouthing obvious swears. I got out. “What is your problem?”

He never actually said, only called me derogatory names. I wrote down his license plate and drove to the other end of the parking lot, where a campus parking security was parked. I told her what happened and admitted I was afraid of leaving my car because this guy was acting insane. The security guard called campus police. I made a report because this was too damned inappropriate, too damned wrong.

The worst thing I did was inadvertently block him and make him wait an extra minute. If he was late for class, sorry, but that isn’t my fault. I’ve been stuck in traffic and late, too, and yes, it’s frustrating to get stuck behind a slow poke. But I don’t chase people and threaten them no matter how much they annoyed me.

The world is a scary place. The sad thing is: it doesn’t have to be.  


  1. Those are definitely rather terrifying experiences, and I'm glad you got out of both of them all right. I agree that sometimes, the world's a scary place when it really doesn't have to be.

  2. Road rage; what can you do? My kids think I'm too polite b/c I rarely force the "right of way". I'm not looking to get that 0.5 second ahead.

    Unless I'm on the interstate. Then, just move out of my way . . coming through. And fast :)


  3. I got shivers reading your stories because this kind of thing happens too often, and yes, it's scary! The nicest people in the world can suddenly turn into monsters once they're cocooned in their cars, and they can't let the slightest PERCEIVED slights go. It's just awful.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. There's just something about driving that riles people up. I've tried to be a nicer driver, but there's something so competitive about it.

  5. It does seem to keep getting meaner, doesn't it?


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