Normally I’m a very calm person, even behind the wheel. It takes a lot to bother me, including dumb moves by other people on the road. I usually just shake my head and move on.
But the other day, one set me off, to the point that I scared myself in how angry I became.
There’s a four-way stop on my road. Shaking my head is pretty normal, given that there are a great many drivers who simply don’t understand how a four-way stop works. (It’s destined to be replaced with a traffic circle. When that happens, I’ll set up a lawn chair, crack a beer, and watch the circus that’s going to result when people who couldn’t figure out stop signs now have to handle a roundabout.)
I got to the four-way and had stopped completely. Two other cars were approaching, as well as a man on a bicycle. Since none of them had yet arrived at their respective stop signs, I started to make my turn.
The cyclist, one of the tight-shorts crowd that whips along my road like they’re training for the Tour de France, didn’t even slow down as he came to the intersection. He raced past the stop sign in front of my car, and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting him.
When I blew my horn at him, he gave me the finger.
And that’s when I exploded.
I had to stop myself from hitting him. I wanted to slam into his wheel and teach him a lesson about blowing stop signs and worse, giving me the finger, as if I was the one who was supposed to wait until he’d gotten his spandex-clad butt through the intersection.
I truly wanted to see him fly off his bicycle and land in the ditch, where I’d scream at him that there was nothing in his head for his helmet to protect, that he’d gotten exactly what he deserved, and that he wouldn’t be trying that again anytime soon.
It was full-blown road rage, and it terrified me, because at that moment I really wanted to hurt him. He’d caused a dangerous situation through his willful dismissal of the traffic laws, and then he’d insulted me, knowing full well that I wouldn’t actually run him down. And I wanted to do something that would shout, You’re wrong, buddy! Not just about the stop sign, but about me not slamming your ass into the middle of next week!
In that split second, both of us could have lost so much—maybe everything—over a sign and a finger. And it’s something I didn’t fully think about until I’d turned into my driveway and calmed down my rage.
This fellow is going to have something happen to him one day. His disregard for the stop sign certainly wasn’t an isolated incident, and eventually, he’s going to come up against someone who doesn’t hit the brakes quickly enough, or who doesn’t control his rage after the fact.
I’m just grateful that it isn’t going to be me.