Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Driving Can Be Hazardous To Your Mental & Spiritual Health

I'm sure this is no surprise, but driving in today's society is a bit like playing roulette... as the little ball.

A few days ago the kids and I had to run out in the afternoon. I decided not to take the typically most congested road out of our town and opted instead for the slightly longer route. It involved a bit of construction and many 4-way stops.

Let me just pause here to ponder the 4-way stop. It seems like an efficient traffic control option for a country founded on the principles of freedom, personal responsibility to the social good, and just plain common sense. The 4-way stop is actually a surprisingly good meter for the common sense and manners of our fellow countrymen. You'll see what I mean in a moment.

The ideal 4-way stop experience would involve multiple cars coming to a full stop, the drivers paying strict attention to giving the right-of-way to the vehicle on their right, and proceeding through when it is safe and legal to do so. Simple, really. The REAL 4-way stop, however, is a free-for-all where only the rude and truly clueless driver are in their element. Crabby, overtired, overworked, and just plain stupid or mean people prevail in 4-way stop intersections. They just drive when they feel like it, regardless of who arrived at the stop first or whose turn it actually is.

We were nearly broadsided several times on the way to our destination. My particular favorite was the boil on the bottom of humanity driving the gigantic truck to our right. He must have been there for hours and/or got his driver's license from the proverbial Cracker Jack box, because I am at a loss as to why he thought he should drive through the intersection directly after the vehicle to my left. The next in turn, of course, was me. So I started... and had to brake midway into the intersection. He gave us a lovely hand gesture, which all of my children saw and a couple commented upon. Niiiiiice. Really nice. What a guy, flipping off a mom with children in the van.

Crying on the freeway because you are so angry is not a good idea, but I did it anyway. I was angry because he was not the first OR the last one to do such a thing to us that day. And yes, when Mr. Anonymously-Driving-Thousands-of-Pounds-of-Metal purposely drives in a dangerous, illegal manner and then has the presence of mind to yell at me and gesture obscenely, I do feel that the action was completely directed at ME and my family. It ceased being a clueless or random act of idiocy when he flipped the bird. It is evil to make a gesture like that at a woman driving a minivan with children in it. Especially a woman who is driving like a normal, sane person. (Hm. Do you think I'm a bit bitter about this?)

Back to some sort of point. What I see happening at the 4-way stop is exactly what I see in the rest of society these days. Don't feel like waiting your turn? Just go - the rules don't apply to you. Annoyed because you can't see around the minivan in front of you? Go ahead, pass on the right and press on through - the rules don't apply to you either. Once people think no one is looking (and that's exactly what we think when we climb into our vehicles - admit it), or at least that no one will know who we are, we suddenly have a lot more in common with Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll. We cave in to those vicious thoughts and urges, and it's safe to do so because there's no face on the other vehicle that we have to look at. We suddenly think we are the only ones that matter, our task or errand is more important than anyone else's.

It's shameful. I admit, I'm ashamed that I absolutely wished for that man to, at the very least, experience a breakdown in the middle of the construction zone during rush hour traffic. Preferably a breakdown involving train tracks, cement, mud, tar and feathers. An oncoming train would have added a nice touch. That makes me no better a human being than he... But I will maintain that I am the better driver.

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