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?