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Road Rage
Mom with a View

Road Rage

What did I do to merit such hostility?


I was driving through the streets of Los Angeles the other day. I arrived at the stop sign around the same time as another driver, possibly a little earlier. Because of the “possibly a little earlier,” I started to inch out into the intersection. It was a good thing I was moving slowly because apparently the other driver didn’t agree with my assessment of the situation and aggressively pushed his own car forward. I stopped and allowed him to go by. As he did so, he made an obscene gesture with his finger in my direction.

I was completely taken aback. What had I done to merit that level of hostility? (Answer: nothing.) Did a possible two-second delay in any way merit such a nasty response? Why was such an intense level of anger and vulgarity invested in such a minor situation? (Speculation: Maybe he had a fight with his wife that morning.)

It was such a brief encounter but the unpleasantness stayed with me all day. It was extremely uncomfortable to be exposed to that level of vitriol.

He drove by too fast for me to respond – in kind (which I would never do) or otherwise. But that wasn’t really my goal. What I wanted to do was understand. Why did such a simple action provoke that level of anger and, more importantly, how should I respond? Not to the driver but to my inner emotional turmoil.

As I calmed down I realized that it was foolish to give this anonymous Californian any power. He is not someone with whom I would want to strike up a friendship – or even an acquaintance! So why do I care how he behaved?

If anything I should just feel sorry for him (I’m on a roll now!). I do feel badly for someone whose fuse is so short; whose angered response is so close to the surface. I have compassion for any human being whose pain is so great that his reactions are so quick and out of proportion. I can only surmise that he must be very unhappy. People who take pleasure in themselves and their lives do not conduct themselves in this fashion.

And there’s more. There are six constant mitzvot in the Torah that are applicable every second of a Jew’s life. One of them is that there are no powers other than the Almighty. Every time I give another person the ability to affect me emotionally, I have abdicated control over my life and I have diminished my trust in God. That’s a big price to pay for a disgruntled driver.

So I’m moving on and changing my attitude. No more power to drivers with road rage. So if you see me cruising the streets of LA and I make a wrong turn or I don’t come to a full stop or I change lanes without signaling, don’t waste your time with nasty gesticulations. I’m not even going to notice.

July 12, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Mati, July 25, 2014 8:17 PM

I'm curious who was right?

Was the guy to the right of you? If so, he had the right of way and your were in the wrong. This may have been the cause of his road rage since you stepped ahead of him. (Since the arrival was so close to the same, it must be judged "arrived at the same time."

(8) Dvirah, July 23, 2014 5:12 PM

Rage or Habit?

Vulgarity has become so common that I wonder if the driver really felt the level of rage imputed to might just be a habit to "tick off" a "rival" driver - although a habit of viewing other drivers as competition is dangerous in and of itself!

(7) Shoshana, July 18, 2014 12:37 PM

Chain Reactions

Every time we are given an opportunity to be angry, our choices lead to something else. We can take something small and build it for better or for worse. I'm guessing anger is one of the top issues humans face in life. It's emotional and the gut loves to speak first, be it for food or retaliation. It is the animal within all of us that needs to be tamed and no one can do teshuva for us; we must do it ourselves. I find this extremely liberating; a chance to be in control of the most lethal weapon I posses - ME. Be it by word or action I know that every single morning upon awakening we all have a fresh opportunity to navigate the streets of our lives in sync with other drivers. We just have to build those muscles every small step of the way. B"H.

(6) Pdg128, July 18, 2014 12:32 PM

Aggressive drivers

I get angry at the aggressive, arrogant, and selfish drivers since they can easily cause personal injuries and property damage. They do constitute a threat. I've seen terrible road behavior even with vulnerable bicyclists who might happen to be in the way of these "brain surgeons" rushing to save someone--not. Chances are the selfies are just trying to get to the mall. Any idiot with a double digit IQ can obtain a drivers license in NJ. NJ beats every other state in having the most impolite "me first" drivers of this ilk. It's possibly one more reason why more people are leaving this unpleasant state every year.

(5) Konrad Yona Riggenmann, July 17, 2014 4:17 PM

Tough guys in BMW

I’ve suffered a lot from “road rage” and as a bicyclist I mostly couldn’t retaliate if only by a loud self-confirming blare of my car horn. In my view, those unpleasant contemporaries are almost exclusively males who in the protective womb of their cars feel safe enough to behave in ways they wouldn’t dare to as pedestrians on the sidewalk. And there’s also a strong cultural condition:
Scott's comment (3) is very insightful but I doubt that Israel is the “home of the rudest most selfish drivers”. During my six weeks bike trip around Israel in 2005 I never had any bad experiences with car drivers. I had those experiences almost daily, during decades, as a bicyclist on German roads. Now I live in Brazil and enjoy this tolerant, respectful culture where I hardly ever hear a car horn blaring faintly at my not always strictly legal maneuvers. What’s different in Brazil? To my opinion, Brazilians differ much from German oberlehrers (superior teachers) as well as from Israeli tough guys who always fear to pass for a weak freier (German term, again). In Brazil, males are allowed to be soft, to even shed tears in public, to cry on the street. What’s higher here is the perception of the other not as an object; what’s lower here is the degree of psychic repression that desperately seeks to vent from inside the protected womb of a 200 hp strong BMW (Big Mummy’s Womb).

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