Sunday, July 29, 2007

Road Rage Run Amuck

Recently, a 60'ish year old man shot and killed a 40 something male after being chased down a road and physically accosted in a public parkway. Onlookers gave their impressions of what happened and the shooter was cleared as a matter of self defense. By happenstance, I had a chance meeting with a former acquaintance of the man who lost his life shortly after this happened. The man relating the story had known the dead man for quite a few years and had other friends in common with him. All were aware of the man's inability to contain his emotions while driving. The former friend sadly related how the dead man's instability had got to the point that none of them would ride with him anymore. They were all afraid someday something like this would happen.

Sadly, this isn't an isolated incident. It doesn't just affect the male population either. Another recent story hit the news when a woman got cut off by a driver, flipped him off and honked her horn and got shot at for her efforts to show her displeasure. The bullet lodged in her child's carseat. Fortunately, it was empty at the time.

My youngest son recently completed a driver's ed class as part of the requirement to get his license. Do you know that part of the curriculum is dedicated to road rage? It's a sad state of affairs when children are taught that the law recognizes the fact that there is no way to protect them from others who use the roads and highways as a form of picking a fight with anyone that has the misfortune to be near them when they decide to go ballistic. It says a lot about how we as a society are miserably failing to curb impulsive behavior in general.

Road rage is becoming the new story of mice and men. The weekend following the 4th of July I had an eye-opening experience of what happens to fools who are distracted while driving. My experience was maybe an example of road rage in reverse...

At an intersection I was attempting to make a right turn and pull out into traffic utilizing a turn lane. Traffic to my immediate left was stopped by a light. As all poor drivers do, both cars stopped for it had used the white line as a means to hitch their front tires so when they got the green light they had less intersection to traverse. Which meant that I literally was creeping into the oncoming cross traffic to see around their cars. And I got rear-ended for my effort to be safe because of the two idiots sitting next to me. But they weren't alone that day on the road.

There was the idiot behind me who hit me hard enough to push my SUV a good foot further into traffic and giving my teeth a good rattling. So like a good driver I stop. That is what you are supposed to do when you are involved in a fender bender. I get out of my car, expecting that the driver behind me would be doing the same. I walk back to the rear of my car and see that the vehicle that hit me was a minivan and inside it were a 40 to 50 year old man (driving) and woman. I reach my bumper and realize that they had hit my tow hitch. Outside of a good jolt I was good to go. The minivan had a noticeable indentation in it's bumper. To my surprise I realize that the man was still in his vehicle. Now I knew he couldn't have been hurt because the damage was insignificant. As I turn to walk towards his car door, I realize that both had weird looks on their faces. He was rolling up his window and locking his door while his lady was on her cell phone with huge eyes and talking a mile a minute.

I am nearly 50 years old, I am 5'4" tall and weigh 130 lbs. I had on running shorts and a t-top. I was, evidently in their eyes, an aggressive person suffering from road rage who was gonna kick their butts right then and there. They looked like two deer caught in headlights. If traffic hadn't been backing up, I probably would have stopped to roll on the ground with laughter. As it was, I managed to stuff that down to a giggle and crooked my finger at the driver indicating he should remove his paralyzed ass from his seat and come talk to me. Reluctantly and very slowly, he eased out the car and when he was finally standing next to me was easily over 6' tall and better than 200 lbs of quivering flesh. The giggle had got past me somehow and now I had a huge smile on my face. Imagine that, in this poor schmucks eyes, I was the "intimidator".

I waited for the man to say something. Like maybe, "I'm sorry" or "Gosh, are you alright?". There was silence. I felt the smile slipping away from me as the silence grew. Finally, I said to him, "There wasn't any damage to my car, although your bumper has a pretty good dent in it. Look legally I had to stop and get out and make sure that whatever happened you don't want to call somebody." He stood there dumbstruck (or so it seemed to me) and blurted out, "I thought you were gonna go." Which mildly pissed me off as I was expecting an apology. I said, "You know I couldn't see around the two other cars waiting on the light." I felt like adding to that, "until you pushed me out into the lane and nearly got me hit by the on-coming car." Having given up on an apology at that point I repeated, "You are the one with damage, do you want to call somebody?" He quickly said, "no" and then followed that with a rather quiet, "I'm sorry." With that, I turned my back on him and got back in my car. Then I got pissed.

It hit me then, that the man knew he was wrong and was expecting me to ream him out. He assumed that he would catch hell for it and maybe even be the recipient of a nice little lawsuit. I got pissed because of a couple of reasons. First, he wasn't paying attention and could have got me hurt. Second, like so many asses in the world, he assumed that he would catch hell from me for it. I had the feeling that this wasn't the first time his inability to focus on the road had got him into a bad situation. It just so happened, this time for him would not evenly mildly create a hazardous outcome for him. More than likely his wife would give him hell for following too close, if anything came of it at all. But what I can only hope for is that this was a wakeup call for him to not put himself in situations where he potentially could end up on the wrong end of a gun. Realistically, I am more inclined to think he probably is playing Russian roulette with his poor driving habits. Someday, it won't be a petite middle-aged lady approaching him - more than likely it will be a rage-filled road warrior seeking scalps.

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posted by Is It Just Me? at 8:31 AM