As I left the bakery, order in hand, making my way to the after-school program I run at the church, I decided to take the little shortcut through the drive of the ambulance service building. As I turned the corner, I became witness to an episode of full-blown road rage. Two men, one in his car, the other just out of his, were shouting at each other - apparently one had tail-gated the other the full twenty minutes' drive from the city. I am not sure who initiated the shouting match, but both men were of good size and well able to cause injury to the other if the argument escalated to a physical exchange. I kept walking, wanting to be out of the way, but after about fifty yards, I turned back because the shouting had become louder and more violent and both men were now out of their cars. I saw one of them throw down his jacket like a hockey player throws down his gloves before a fight. They started posturing and circling like inexperienced boxers in a ring - or gorillas fighting over a banana - and it looked ridiculous. Suddenly, I felt a surge of indignation, and I shouted at them, "Hey! Do you want me to call the police?" One of them shouted back at me, "Yes! Go ahead and call the cops. Then I can tell them how this guy drove five feet behind my bumper all the way from (the city)!" More 'F' words from the other guy, and they were back at it, but somehow hesitating a little to start throwing punches. An older man from across the street began to walk slowly and cautiously toward the pair, and I decided to carry on to the church so I wouldn't be late for the kids who would be arriving soon. I yelled at the pair to 'for crying out loud grow up' and left. I don't think they heard me, and I didn't end up calling the police.
Maybe because I've been watching too many episodes of the BBC's Robin Hood with my girls - we've been saying to each other lately, "Where's Robin when you need him?" in certain situations - but I wished I'd had the time to go back to the scene and intervene. I knew one of the men by sight, knew who his wife and children are, too. I felt like asking him, "Is this the kind of example you want to give your family? Do you want them to hear you calling another man a 'faggot'? Do you want them to see you exercise your stupid pride, rather than just apologize to this man for riding his bumper so closely, which by law puts you in the wrong, and then leave in peace?" And I wanted to tell the other man to walk away, that fighting would get him nowhere. But, I had somewhere to be. I hope that older man was able to calm the pair down and talk some sense into them, especially because both of them were old enough to know better. I hope, above all, that he wasn't hurt. That none of them were.
The road rage scenario got me thinking on a number of levels. When we are in a car, we are in a safe bubble of anonymity in many ways, and the other person is just a stranger who, perhaps, drives more slowly than we'd like. We believe we have the right to treat that person solely as the operator of the vehicle, not as another human being, so we feel quite free to swear at them, hurl abuse if we see fit, and speed past with a honk and a raised middle finger at the first opportunity. I've seen it so many times; people who would behave somewhat politely to another stranger in person, behave like a complete ass just because they are in a vehicle. That has happened to me before, when I wasn't driving as quickly as the woman in the vehicle behind me would like, so she floored the gas at the first opportunity and screamed at me as she drove past. She was still only a car ahead of me at the red light, seconds later, so what did her rage really get her? I still remember her face as she stuck it out her window to scream at me, and I remember thinking that it takes an awful lot of energy to get that angry.
Why do some people need to scream at others when they are slightly inconvenienced? And why do some people, particularly men, feel that fighting with fists is the only way to make a point? Why do they not back down when they know they are in the wrong, and if they are on the receiving end of that wrong-doing, do they not just walk away? Tailgating is not exactly a cause for World War III. I am pretty sure Robin Hood wouldn't bother raising an arrow to another man just because he drove his horse-drawn cart too slowly in front of him. If that driver was endangering the lives of others by mowing them down in the road and stealing their hard-earned gold, however, that would be a different story, of course.
From what I have seen, most episodes of road rage are a lot of drama over something quite trivial - just people looking for a fight, really. Sometimes I think the world needs to go for a long hike followed by a collective yoga class, given a cup of soothing peppermint tea and be made to read a selection of enlightening books before it even thinks about getting behind the wheel.
The Photo of the gorillas is from thefabweb.com. The other is from BBC.com Have a good weekend, friends. Stay cool.
And speaking of bananas, Stella has a great banana cake recipe over at her virtual cafe.