The biggest problem with driving, in my observation, is that other people also drive. If the roads consisted only a single driver — me — few of the headaches of operating a vehicle would ever enter my world. Alas, I suppose the rest of the world isn’t going to forego driving anytime soon, so I will have to accept the fact that I will have to coexist.
But thanks to them, I will get to experience the wide range of emotions that comes with driver interaction. The other day, in a short period of time, I experienced two very different parts of the driver emotional spectrum.
The first: Schadenfreude. Yes, the pure of joy of instant karma. I was traveling to work over the Ravenel Bridge, a multi-lane, several mile bridge that is a great place to showcase that you are an awful driver. That day was one of those days, when a driver in an SUV was apparently trying to see how many lane changes he could do in as short a time as possible. I saw in my rear view mirror as he weaved in and out of traffic, probably doing about 20 mph more than most of us on the bridge that day. Then, instant justice. Just as he shot by me, the car directly behind me whipped into another lane and accelerated to pass me. And just as he passed me, I saw his sweet blue lights of retribution. He accelerated and caught up to the SUV, who must have known he was pegged right away, as he slowed down and went all the way to the right lane. He still had another mile or so before the bridge exit, so I can only guess that was a fun rest of the bridge for him, as the blue lights flashed in his mirrors.
Oh, delicious karma. You taste so sweet.
As high I was riding on that event, I would get to experience a different roadway emotion a short while later — road rage. And the worst part, I didn’t even know I was part of the rage incident.
I was at a light, preparing to turn left onto a side street. A car was in front of me, also preparing to turn. The light turned yellow, and rather than proceed with the turn as most people do, the driver opted to put her car in reverse and back up, I guess to wait for the next light. This is when I found out that I was involved in a dispute with this person.
I was in the car with a co-worker, having a conversation about … I don’t even remember. But I do know it wasn’t about the person backing up. Apparently, the driver of the car in front of me thought I was talking to her. Anyone who knows me knows that I talk in a very animated fashion, and my hands often become a key part of any conversation I’m holding. I can’t help it. It’s just how I’m wired.
I can only guess that hand movements were interpreted as being directed at her, which they weren’t. She did not stop to determine that, and instead got out of her car and turned and shouted some very lovely words to me, and told me that she saw my “raggedy ____ car” and what I could do with the rest of the day.
Now first off, I drive a Honda Civic. Is it a Ferrari? No. Could it use a wash? Probably. But raggedy? I think not.
Second, I really don’t know how to respond to someone who is engaged in a fight that I neither instigated nor was planning on being part of.
So, I did the sensible thing. I got out of my car and screamed, “YOU WANNA GO?”
Ha! Not even close. I kinda just waved and said, “Uh, OK?”
She got back in her car, and made the turn when the light turned again. I went ahead and gave her some time to ease on down the road before I made my turn, lest we have round two of the fight I didn’t know I was a part of.
Both of these incidents could have been avoided had the other drivers simply not been, well, awful drivers. But unfortunately, those folks aren’t going away any time soon, and I don’t see me getting the roads to myself. I guess I’ll just keep control of what I can, and hope that the authorities are there when folks are driving poorly, and that I keep my hands in check when they are not.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.