Friday, March 28, 2014

Honk if you...spite?

I used to be an extremely offensive driver. I wouldn't hesitate to tailgate someone driving slowly, pass someone on either side going more slowly than I, or even honk if I felt someone had erred. This has gotten better with age and often having at least one little person in the car with me whose life I value even more than my own. 

My habits were also softened one day, 10+ years ago, when I was sitting at a red light. I looked over and the woman driving the car next to me was openly sobbing. Trying not to stare, I felt such compassion for her. What happened today to cause her such pain? I wondered to myself. And then it struck me...what if I had been behind her, deemed her driving unacceptable, and had honked at her. How would that have made her feel? And I realized, while sitting at that light, the power that I, and the center of my steering wheel, held, and vowed to try to not make anyone's day worse.

Hey, I've gotten better. I didn't say I was the Mother Teresa of the open road. My child's first word was "GO!" followed by "Dada," "Get over!" "Dog" and "Turn your blinker off!" (OK, I made up the last one.) But I do try, on any given day, to be more defensive than offensive.

That brings us to this past Wednesday. After work, I ran to the grocery and was on my way home. I got behind a woman who was preoccupied with her cell phone. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, she was slow to move up and close the gap when traffic moved. I was irritated but held it in. 

Then we get to our first light. The light turned green and all the other lanes began to move and we didn't. I see that she's looking down instead of ahead. I take a breath, count to five in my head and, when we're still not moving, I decided to prompt her with two quick beeps. Beep-Beep. Not a blast. Not an alarm. Just a nudge. She looks up, sees the light is green and that our neighbors are all moving, but still throws her arms up in feigned apology and then proceeds.

 As we travel to the next light, she goes out of her way to change lanes, slow down, and get behind me. Again, we're at a red light. I'm the first in our lane and, for whatever reason, my neighbor who was first in his lane and I both hesitate when the light turns green but for just a half-second. She sees her opportunity and grabs it. H-O-N-K!!!!!!! She sits on the horn, even after we've begun moving. I look in my rear view mirror to see her face full of, well, spite. She's proud of herself. And all I can do is chuckle and think "whatever floats your boat, lady."