Calling it road rage would have been like calling Paul Blart: Mall Cop merely a bad movie.*
I used to scream and yell and beat on the steering wheel, jumping up and down in my seat while my legs made running motions to get me closer to the idiot who’d just done me irreparable harm.
Well, to be honest, it probably wasn’t irreparable. And it probably wasn’t harm. Per se. Although, I’m sticking firm on calling the driver an idiot. Yes, all of them. And I’m not backing down on this.
It used to be that I would make sailors blush, construction workers excuse themselves to go apologize to that nice lady they whistled at the day before, and characters in a Tarantino movie chastise me for my potty mouth**.
I cursed. A lot. Is what I’m trying to say here. Not only was the frequency very, very high, but the volume was way up there as well.
I defended the practice on those rare occasions where I felt the need to do so, by pointing out that – for the most part – the other drivers couldn’t hear me, didn’t even notice me freaking out in my car, and weren’t harmed by my antics in the least. Plus, I hastened to point out, all the screaming and yelling made me feel better in that it allowed me to vent my near-constant aggression1 in a way that, as noted above, didn’t actually hurt anyone.
Which was all well and good until it was pointed out by She Who Must Soon Be My Wife that I might not have been scaring the other drivers, but I was sure scaring the heck out of my passengers, and that most definitely included both her and her mother, my soon-to-be in-law.
Now, I’ve been accused of being many things, but never an idiot. Which is what I would have to be if I keep acting in a way that would alienate my future-mother-in-law-if-I-was-lucky-and-her-daughter-actually-married-me.2
It wasn’t easy. The first time I tried to cut back on the screaming and yelling and took a trip with the two ladies, I thought it went very well. After, I learned that my future-mother-in-law-if-I-was-lucky-and-her-daughter-actually-married-me was concerned there might be something wrong with me.3 Which was when I realized that I needed to keep working on this much harder than I had previously.
It’s not easy to go cold turkey on a habit that’s become as ingrained as that, but I had a good incentive. And it didn’t make a dime’s worth of difference. I couldn’t stop yelling at the idiots who kept blocking my way in the road.
All of that was before I tried to answer one simple question: What difference did it make, the yelling and screaming?
I was stumped. Would those drivers I screamed at in the privacy of my car begin to drive better? Would they be less idiotic? Would they be contrite? What difference did it make?
No. No. No. And, sadly, none.
I’m not one to waste a lot of effort. I’d rather save it up for the important things (like screaming at football games4). Just like that, the river of abuse pouring from my mouth dried up and blew away.
An astonishing change all from asking the right question. Which makes one wonder how else we could effect change if only we could find the right question to ask. In addition, it seems as if it was something I should have been considering for a while, especially since I would eventually be driving around with even more impressionable ears and eyes in the car. I had made a step toward acting and sounding sane, but only one step.
Of course, every other word out of my mouth consisted of me dropping some form of the F-bomb, but that’s another story for another day.5
Footnotes & Errata
* It is an appalling movie. Two hours of my life wasted. I’m still angry at my kids for forcing me to see that horrific abuse of celluloid.
** There are 429 curse words in Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino. This is a video compilation of all of them.
1 Dr. Bruce Banner is always angry.
2 I sometimes give overly descriptive nicknames. My brain’s screams for help continue to go unheard.
3 Heh heh heh
4 Don’t judge me.
5 Like, say, next week? Same Dude Time. Same Dude Channel.