By Renee Masur
Recently, dealing with road rage has become a part of my every day commute. I don’t like myself when I get angry at the back of people’s heads or their profiles as they drive past me. “Idiot” is a term I mutter (or yell) much too frequently.
It wasn’t always this way. Bussing around Vancouver, or even meep-meeping around town in a Car2Go during rush hour, never upset me as much as some of this Vancouver Island traffic can. But now, if someone merges lanes too quickly, or doesn’t respond to a green light as fast as I think they should, they get branded with a mental “idiot” stamp. What is this ridiculous notion that I am the only sensible driver out on the road? I know I make mistakes (leaving the blinker on too long or day-dreaming at a red light that suddenly turns green). All the mistakes I make are the same that I judge, though when it’s me, and a driver gets aggravated, I just give them the “relax” hand gesture. (It’s like you’re going in for a slap but never commit)
I spoke about this briefly on my vlog the other day, and after promising myself I wouldn’t get upset, I felt myself raging this morning about a girl behind me on the highway powdering her face in the review mirror! “Woman, watch where you’re going!” My rage was as red as ever.
Most of the posts I’ve read about road rage are about ways of preventing road rage, or diagnosing yourself as a rager. I want to talk about the source of our pissed-offedness. I think it comes down to a power trip.
Really, we give ourselves way too much credit. When you are a teenager you are allowed to read a book that will tell you most of the things you need to know about dealing with a vehicle. Then if you do well, with some supervision, you are allowed to take that power to the roads. And from there we grow. And our driving ego gets bigger and bigger.
But let’s look at this power. We get to sit in a (somewhat) protective metal box, dictate our direction and speed, and decide when we want to come and go. This is a crazy privilege that we just got! I’m 23 and have been driving since I was 14. My dad would take me on the back roads to steer when I was even younger, and a couple years later, would let me make the gear shifts from the passenger seat. And while I can feel incomplete or even unsure of myself in many circumstances, on the road, I am all powerful. Nope.
I am completely power-tripping. We are moving faster, for longer, and with more accuracy. And now with google maps we have even more confidence about getting to where we’re going. I think this attitude amplifies our bubble-rudeness. I say bubble, because we allow ourselves to say rude things because other people will never hear it. If I ever bump into someone on the street, my Canadian-ness cannot help but apologize, to which the bump-ee will graciously say “no problem.”
I am not a mean person, but in that vehicle I can be straight up rude. And if I think I’m powerful because I am in a car, that means everyone else driving is just as powerful—which we all know—cancels out all the power.
My sensitivity to the woman powdering her face was about my safety and the people around the two of us. I wasn’t angry about her sub-par skill in driving, I was pissed that at any moment, she could change someone’s life, and her own, from a split second of ignorance.
Take the power out of the equation and imagine you are every person in every vehicle. Imagine they are your family, your children, or someone you love. My red-face fades and suddenly it is up to my driving to keep everyone safe in their speeding containers.
I won’t waste precious time fuming at someone’s bumper. I will do better this time.