Yesterday morning, a Monday morning, started out like any other. I got my kids up, got them fed, helped them get dressed and with their hair, then dropped one off at preschool and the other at the bus stop. As the bus pulled away, so did I, off to work. I drive the same drive most mornings. I don't take the highway, but instead Friars Road, which is a three lane, relatively busy street that parallels Highway 8. It's not a bad commute, except for yesterday.
I was driving along, listening to my new Smash Ups CD (thank you, Jacquie!), when I heard a loud horn to my left side. Was I swerving into that lane? Maybe, it didn't feel like it, but maybe, so I waved as the person who beeped came up level with me. It was a middle-aged man in a little red sports car, and the look on his face was pure anger, and he was bitching me out (I couldn't hear him bitching me out, but I could see it).
So, using a tactic I learned from a woman at one of my first jobs at Candy Kitchen in Ocean City, Maryland, I waved more. (She told me that when a customer was rude, your only recourse was the "kill them with kindness," just be as sweet as pie to them. I've found the reaction can go two ways, either it diffuses their anger, or, sometimes, it ignites it. And truth be told, I was waving a little obnoxiously.)
Ol' sports car guy did not like this, not at all. In fact he disliked it so much he cut in front of me and came to a dead stop, on the middle of this three lane (six, if you're counting the other side) street at 8:30 AM on a weekday. It was hard to break in time. At this point, I admit, the wave changed to flipping him off, with both hands. I mean, Wtf???? I also started laying on the horn, long and loud. He was turning around looking at me, obviously screaming. He finally starts driving, pointing repeatedly, with big arm motions, to the side of the road, AS IF, I'm going to pull over to talk to this big pissed off guy in his little red sports car.
I try to keep my distance from him, but then a light ahead turns red. When everyone is stopped at the light, he gets OUT of his car, with his cheesy little headphone on, in his sweat suit, and walks up to my car with is finger out waggling at me, screaming at me, right next to my car door -- in front of all sorts of other cars with people in them. I was shocked. Obviously, I locked my doors, and I also turned my music up so I had no idea of the specifics of his rant, and just looked at him. It was fucking scary. I wrote his license plate number down when he got back into his car, but I doubt I can do anything with it, plus if I could, he's probably the kind of nut that would come and burn down my house.
I emailed my husband when I arrived at work, and he told me I should have laid on the horn the whole time he was out of his car and picked up my cell phone and called 911. He's probably right, but you know, I just don't have much experience with this type of crazy.
It was frightening though, and makes me wonder what's going wrong in the world. Has modern, urban life got us so wound up that we'll snap over the slightest infraction? I saw a similar incident the day before (which I'll have you know, I was NOT involved in). Again it was a middle-aged man, this time in the parking lot of Home Depot, freaking out at a (woman) employee of the store. She called out something to him from a distance, and he started yelling and waving his hands back at her. I was in my car by this point, so don't know what was being said, but whatever it was, it had this approximately 55 year old guy running, yes, running toward her, screaming. He looked ridiculous, like an overgrown boy gone wild. How could his Sunday morning shopping experience have gone so bad?
Obviously, I don't know. But it's clear to me we need a lot more Gandhi and a lot less Mike Tyson out there in the world.