Internalizing the Road-Rage Experience

I suffered from road-rage for the first time this morning since trying to parallel park during my driver’s training exam. I was heading east approaching an intersection with a red light that requires stopping if one were going straight or waiting to turn left. It also had an optional lane to turn right, but with a yield sign. That’s the direction I was going. However, most people end up stopping at the yield sign because there is so much north to south traffic during peak hours, and that direction usually has a green light through the intersection. I was no different and stopped at the yield, while the car behind me must have wanted to smell my behind. Either that, or push me onto oncoming traffic using me as a lead blocker while he drives to daylight. Yes, he was that uncomfortably close to my tail.

Do you notice that when you are approaching a yield while looking at a red light, your automatic first tendency is to stop, and then while focusing on the traffic far into the distance you are not even aware that the closer oncoming traffic has started to slow down because the north-south lights have turned yellow? That was my mistake. I was a half-second slow in anticipating that our light was about to turn green, which meant not having to stop at the yield, and this really antagonized the car behind me, as evident by his 5 second prolonged honk.

Once I got out of his way, he flew by me while making the requisite body and fingering gesticulations that you would expect. Once in front of my car, he started signaling both left and right enough times for a disco and, just to leave no doubts, started zig zagging his vehicle side to side, in and out of both lanes as if on a dance floor. Or maybe he was mimicking a boxer hopping around in all directions getting ready for a fight.

Of course all his time spent on his moves and not going in a straight line meant I would end up catching up to him at the next set of red lights and stopped right beside him. This gave him an even more direct, almost face-to-face, opportunity to vent, go red, and even open his door halfway with one leg sticking out. Was it a bluff? Should I have called the potential bluff? I just couldn’t make a decision and procrastinated in anguish. I couldn’t act. In this case the traffic lights forced me to act. They turned green, I turned into the road leading to my work parking lot, while the disco dancer/driver/boxer desperately tried to get himself back into his car as the vehicles behind him went into a chorus of honking.

I apologize for my road-rage displayed this morning and am writing this blog to provide evidence in case I have to turn myself in.

-Patrick Law

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12 Comments

Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving

12 responses to “Internalizing the Road-Rage Experience

  1. Rick

    I don’t see how you had road rage? The other guy obviously had a bit or rage but seems like you kept to yourself – unless you were very angry inside and did not make that clear in your post.

    Or maybe you meant that suffering from road rage for the first time was suffering from some other douche bags rage? In any case, I usually just try to get in front of their vehicle again and drive very slow and anticipate their lane changes and change at the same time. If they get too close, the brakes come on.

    I know that’s making them angrier and probably not a wise thing to do considering the circumstances – but wtf?? Get off my ass already!

    Anyway, any time someone gets out of their vehicle – I will always get out as well, they usually drive away after that. To be fair though, I get road rage a lot in this city and sometimes find that I am the one getting angry at drivers – but to justify, it’s usually because they are being dumbasses first 🙂

  2. Hello Rick!
    Your long awaited first comment at this blog and, as usual, you enter with a bang! Hehehe…..
    Yes, you have a point there in noticing the perspective in which the road-rage comes from or is viewed from. Am I living vicariously through another’s experience? Because I’m usually not spontaneous enough to vent like that other driver, am I only able to mildy react after the fact in a much filtered version of rage? Hmmm…

    I see that part of your method is to be a partner and continue the dancing or sparring with the other party:)
    I wouldn’t want to be the referee caught in between.

    Would you play the same game if the road was just near your work place and there’s a chance the other party or vehicles nearby are colleagues? Or when you step out of the vehicle, and see who it is, would you all have a laugh about it? Rick, I’ll be stopping at a yield sign near your place next week. Let’s play this out.
    -patrick

  3. Patrick ~ You probably handled it best by doing nothing. I often wonder what road ragers hope to accomplish with their juvenile displays of anger.

    Here is a funny road rage experience that I had. 😀
    http://justcuz.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/and-they-drive/

  4. Shkitty

    I firmly believe in karma. This sucker obviously had a lot of anger before even getting behind the wheel and let his emotions get the better of him. I think you did the right thing by not confronting this tool even though you could probably bench press him with ease. The problem with that is that most of these people have fragile minds and could snap with a weapon in an instant.
    That being said I probably would have got out if I didn’t have my uniform on and told the guy to take his horn and finger and shove them both up his ass. I agree with Rick that these retards usually shrink when they realise you’ll kick their but. I guess I should learn to control my emotions when I’m behind my hypothetical wheel.
    Sounds like other drivers agreed with you that this guy had a wire loose and needed to check himself. I’m sorry to hear about your driving experience.

  5. Betme,
    Thanks for providing the link to your post about this topic. I read it and that waiting for the stop sign to turn green is a classic. I already filed it away in a document in a folder of treasures locked in eternity on my hard drive and backed up in another location, ready to pull out whenever I need to improve my circulation.

    It’s interesting that a lot of our stories about rage, if we step back, there can be humor pulled out from the scenario if we allow it. Maybe that can be a reminder for all of us to vent a bit if we have to, but never cross the line and go too far.

    Shkitty,
    You give a good warning that it’s probably not worth it. All it takes is just one person to snap, and then we say goodbye. Not worth it over a stranger who is probably already angry or frustrated at something else in life and taking it out on whatever situation presents itself.
    Shkitty drives more than most of us, as it’s part of his everyday work, so I’m sure he’ll have many experiences and stories to share about driving as this category of blog grows.

  6. dolf

    The proper response to somebody acting like an idiot, as Rick points out, is to prevent them from getting the better of you.

    Option #1 Take off fast enough to keep him behind you and then find a nice, slow semi to sit beside for awhile to facilitate his cooling down and driving like a human (yes, this usually has the opposite effect, but it is fun.)

    Option #2 In a standard car is to fake a stall while taking off… then fake a second and third stall- they usually get the point. This is best done if you follow up with option #1 immediately.

  7. Kent

    Hey Pat,

    As you well know, I have certainly had my share of road rage in the past… and perhaps I still have moments now. As I’ve gotten older, I just think to myself that am I really in that much of a hurry that a couple of extra seconds or minutes will kill me?

    I do find that the pace of the vehicles on the highways here in the Houston area are much faster than in Canada. I always find the pace of traffic so much slower whenever I visit back home. Perhaps it’s a (beneficial?) side effect of all the speeding cameras.

    Like Shkitty, I too believe in Karma and like to think that this other person will die in some fiery spontaneous and painful death (that does not hurt any other innocent beings or cost the taxpayers money).

  8. Dolf,
    Hehe, wow, we seem to have a lot of ideas how to get ‘revenge’ on the other driver. There’s no limit to the creativity in ‘road-rage’, I guess. I am just worried that at what point to we make somebody snap. We can play the games, send a message, but everybody has a different breaking point, and on a certain day, will it be that certain person, with a certain low threshold, who snaps and tries to ram us off the road, or worse.

    Kent,
    From Houston! Sharing the same roads as Betme! Yes, I remember being in the passenger side of your vehicle during our younger years and witnessing some of your fury, hehe. I must admit, most times, you had a reason.

    Good point about comparing the pace being faster where you are than in Calgary. In addition to the regular speeding cameras, and red light cameras at intersections, our city will soon put in speed cameras right at the same intersections. So many people speed through yellow lights, or try, to avoid the red light cameras; so, now if you go over a certain speed through the lights, the camera also catches you for speeding. When it gets officially implemented, let’s see how it works out.
    -patrick

  9. mistermanly

    Hi Patrick,

    Surprisingly enough, I never seem to be the target of road rage. I suspect it’s the battered pickup truck I drive, which just screams uninsured. Of course, I suppose it could be the shotgun in the gun rack mounted in the back window. Heck, I rarely even get tailgated.

    Hi betme,

    Best I can figure, driving is a type of therapy for people with little control of their lives. For many, especially those with long commutes, being behind the wheel is the only time during the day when they are in charge. When this control is threatened by other drivers, who they perceive as being in their way, it throws them into a blind rage and they feel compelled to make it known that they’re not pleased.

    A lack of self control, by the way, is not manly.

    Mister Manly

  10. Mr. Manly,.
    Welcome to the blog and thanks for visiting. Without doubt, your truck is a ‘man’s’ truck. Interesting. In another post about ‘anti-theft devices’ for vehicles, there were comments about making the cars more feminine to deter theft; to deter being a victim of road-rage, I may need to up my testosterone a bit.

    I like your ideas. I’m going to bring my car in for a sex change, at least on the exterior. And yeh…the gun rack sure will do it! I like how your methods are awesome for prevention. It doesn’t even allow the situation to escalate or even occur!
    -patrick

  11. Patrick ~ Perhaps you could give it an manly exterior as suggested by Mr. Manly and still keep a supply of femine products close at hand to deter theft.
    To deter those who want to ride my bumper, I want a bumper sticker that reads: Back off I am on my Period.

    Hi Kent, waving at you from my corner of Houston.

  12. Pingback: The ‘Side-Effects’ of Road-Rage (Experimental Musings for Psychology) « Procrastination Post

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