Friday, October 08, 2010

Road Rage

Last week my wife and I were driving somewhere when I almost got into a violent altercation with someone. I was driving to an unfamiliar location and realized that I was in the wrong lane with a left turn coming up, and when I signaled and tried to move into the left turn lane, the big SUV behind me sped up to make sure I couldn't move over, as a woman in the passenger seat glared down at me as they raced by like she was thinking, "Screw you."

Well, I did manage to get over behind the SUV, and as we both sat at a red light, I made an angry gesture to the driver of the SUV. No, I didn't flip him the bird. I shook my fist at him. He saw me and opened the driver side door part way as though he was going to jump out and confront me right there, but it appeared as though the woman passenger stopped him from following through on his folly. He slammed his door shut and jerked around in his seat like he was completely beside himself with fury.

I don't know what I would have done if he had gotten out of his vehicle and moved toward me. I know I would have stayed in the car, but what if he started pounding on it or kicking it? What if he had a gun? He certainly seemed angry enough that if he had a gun, he wouldn't have thought twice about using it, especially if he hadn't had a female passenger to talk him out of it.

If he had had a gun and started walking toward me with it, I think I'd have tried to run him over. If he'd damaged the car with punches or kicks, I or my wife would have tried to get his license number and report him.

But what about the gesture I made to him? Should I have done it? Did he deserve to see my displeasure over the way he conducted himself when I tried to move into the left turn lane just before the stoplight? I think he deserved it. But what people deserve and what we should give them if it puts ourselves and our loved ones in danger are, perhaps, separate issues with the latter overriding the former.

In retrospect, I wish I had made no gesture, although a perverse part of me is glad I did. But if I had it to do over, should I have made the gesture I did or some other one? If another one, what should it have been? I kind of think that showing him the back of my open hand would have been better. It wouldn't have been overtly vulgar like flipping him the bird, or confrontational like showing him my fist. He would have probably thought I was flipping him the bird or challenging him to a fight anyway, but at least I'd have the satisfaction of knowing that I did neither, assuming he didn't shoot me and I was able to feel anything afterward.

What kind of society do we live in with people like the jerk in the SUV with his stereotypical Harley sticker on the back and, perhaps, a gun or crowbar under his seat driving on our public roads? Or am I the villain in this story?

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