I was trapped behind a slow moving car on the freeway the other day. I was trying to get nowhere in a hurry and she was in my bloody way!
It was raining hard and she hit the brakes every few seconds. The traffic was heavy and it was almost impossible to change lanes to get past her.
I don’t know if it was her incessant brake tapping, or the fact that I am weary from constantly traveling, but I started to get irritated. I am not usually an irritable chap but the more she tapped, and the more I felt trapped, the more irritated I became.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it and I quickly signaled and slipped dangerously into a gap in the next lane. I pissed off the guy in that lane and he flashed his lights and yelled at me.
I moved alongside the brake tapper and lowered my window. I was frustrated and angry! I was just about to let the idiot have it. I was going to yell at her big time.
And then I saw her.
She wasn’t an idiot. She was a sweet looking frazzled mom, driving in the pouring rain, trying to wipe the fogged windshield, while simultaneously leaning back and attempting to comfort what looked like infant twins screaming their heads off on the back seat.
She looked over at me with such a worried, apologetic, sad look on her face.
I know that look.
I have seen it before.
That look was the reason I made a promise to myself thirty years ago to never lose my temper in a car again.
I was a typical twenty five year-old at the time I made the promise to myself. I really thought I knew everything about everything in those days. I was driving my little old-school Mini. The sunroof was open and my eight-track tape deck was playing Boston’s ‘More than a Feeling’ at full volume.
I was singing at the top of my voice when suddenly a car jumped a stop sign right in front of me. I braked and swerved. I barely missed the old guy’s car.
I was livid. He did not even see me.
I was so angry. I wanted to beat him up. I turned my car around and chased after him. I was ready to fight. The idiot almost killed me and he drove on without even a sideways glance or an apology.
I chased him for a few blocks and finally caught up with him. He had stopped at a stop sign correctly this time.
I honked at him gesticulating and waving my fist.
He seemed confused. He wound down his window.
“You jumped a stop sign back there you &%$#@ idiot! What the hell…”
“I did?” he said looking back over his shoulder. “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry.”
I was boiling with anger. I jumped out of my car and strode over to his window.
He put up his hands in an apologetic manner. “I sorry. I…I… don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean you don’t know what to do?” I yelled.
“My…my wife had a heart attack,” he stammered. “I just came from the hospital. I’m so sorry. I’m not thinking right. I’m really sorry.”
I stopped in my tracks.
The poor man was distraught. He was clutching the steering wheel with both hands. Shaken to the core.
I shut my big fat stupid mouth and reached in and patted him on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I said, hating myself for making the whole world about me. “Do you want me to take you home or something?”
I felt awful. He was just a sweet looking grandpa in a brown suit with a tie. His hat was sitting next to him on the passenger seat.
His eyes were brimming with tears.
“Um, no, that’s okay,” he said, “I…my son is meeting me at the house.”
Long after he was gone, I sat on the bonnet of my car and cried.
I’m glad I didn’t break my promise to myself today.