Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rage



An acquaintance of Tony's is road biking when a man in a truck passes him too closely and clips his shoulder. The biker is angry at the too-close encounter and flips his arm angrily at the driver.

The pick-up truck driver pulls in front of the biker, exits his truck and begins his verbal assault. The biker tries to pedal away, but the trucker pushes him over. The biker's feet are clipped into the pedals and he lands hard on the ground, vulnerable, and the trucker continues his attack with kicks and punches.

The biker ends up with broken ribs, cuts and scratches. The trucker ends up with an assault charge. Fortunately, witnesses were close at hand.

When Tony finishes the story, I repeat what I often say in response to any story about road rage, "You never know who has a gun." In this case, the trucker's gun was his short fuse. I add, "You never know a person's situation. Did his girlfriend just break up with him? Did he lose his job? He was looking for a fight."

Indelible in my memory, is the night my father was an angry driver. Before we left for dinner at my aunt and uncle's home, Dad had come home tense.  When a diesel came up close behind him with his brights on, my father over-reacted. In memory of my father's goodness, I will leave it at that--- which forever proved that road rage can over-power the sense of good people.

To Tony's credit, he told me the story to validate my repeated warnings to him, because  he used to let bad drivers get to him. Yet, I don't need validation to keep up my fight against road rage. When we lived in Los Angeles, there was a rash of road rage that resulted in a few drivers who pulled out guns and shot the offending drivers. The birth of my aphorism: You never know who has a gun and is looking for the slightest provocation to use it.

Tony created his own way to deal with drivers who tempted his good nature and patience. My best friend in high school, Melissa, is a delightful, loveable person with some wickedly bad driving skills and weakened peripheral vision. When I rode in her passenger seat, I saw the trail of angry drivers which she was completely unaware of. Tony imagines the driver who almost ran him off the road is Melissa.

And me? Every driver who mistakes the fast left lane for the left-turning-lane, and causes me to slam on my brakes, I see as my father driving in his later years. I'm filled with compassion and patience for someone who could be going through the same decline as him.

Bottom line: driving defensively is more than a catch phrase-- it's a necessary skill--as necessary as  patience and self-control.