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What if the Other Driver could hear you?


Imagine for a moment the aspects of your typical daily commute.  I am sure there are certain places where you run into the inevitable “idiot driver”.  Alternatively you can just think of an example of a day where you were in a bad mood and everyone was getting on your nerves OR maybe there is an example of something that someone did behind the wheel to really make your blood boil!

 Are you there, are you imagining it? So here is my question… what did you say (or yell) to that person?  I know, you are a nice person so you weren’t THAT hard on them right?  You probably said something like… “Oh, Gee Willikers!  That person almost caused an accident, dontcha know!”  I know what it’s like, I’ve used words similar to that quite often!  Don’t blame yourself for getting out of control, all of us throw out the “Gee Willikers” time and again.

 But now imagine if you were in the hallway at work, in the grocery store, or the doctor’s office and that same person “cut you off” in traffic.  What would you say to them?  OR let’s say you came around a blind corner and almost ran into someone?  Would you let the “Gee Willikers” slip out or maybe even a “Holy Mackerel”!  and even more importantly, what does the other person say to YOU?

 Here’s what I said when I recently rounded a corner (staying to the right of course, so I was clearly not at fault) and was nearly knocked out by another pedestrian, I said “Excuse Me”!?!?!  boy did I tell him! You know what HE retorted with!  He said “Om my gosh, I’m sorry about that!  Can you believe the nerve of this… wait a minute... back up a sec, what just happened there?

 OK, I said “excuse me”, and not like Steve Martin would say it either, I’m pretty sure that was an apology for nearly running into him?  Yep, I just looked it up and here is how “excuse me” is defined:

  • Excuse me: [used] as a mild apology or statement of polite disagreement is from c.1600

  • Visit the Online Etymology Dictionary for the complete text

So it’s confirmed, I apologized! And it wasn’t even my fault, clearly “dude” (because I don’t know his name) was not obeying the basic etiquette of hallway traffic, and yet I apologized.

 But wait. It gets even stranger, “dude” also apologized to ME and then he stood aside for me to get by! (darn right he did!)

 Ultimately, however, I am left with this queasy feeling about why we were so polite to each other.  What I should have said was “get the HELL out of my way JACKASS!”… right!?  But I didn’t do that!

 Was I scared of this guy subconsciously?  Am I not the MAN I think I am?  I could easily have knocked this guy into next week!  This throws my whole self-view into question!

 If I was in the car I’d probably be calling this guy every name in the book and then… wait one damn minute!  I’ve got it!  I think I was being nice!... but WHY for heaven’s sake?!

 I’ll need some time to think about that.  In the meantime let’s put your imagination to work again.  Imagine the same incident you were imagining before.  You know the one?!  The one where you were creating new combinations of words and gestures to describe that idiot who did you wrong!

 Now rewind that incident and imagine both of your vehicles have a short proximity microphone and speaker so you can hear and speak with the other person and vice versa.  What would you say?  What would they say?  And here is the REALLY interesting question… Would they have done what they did in the first place?

 Please allow me to quote House once again…

 House, M.D., Season 4, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”

House:If you want to stop car accidents, take out the air bags and attach machetes pointing at their throats... No one will go over three miles an hour.”

 That would certainly change the stakes wouldn’t it?  Just like if you had to “face” the person in the other car would change the stakes of mouthing off to them or vice versa. (and it has the added benefit of being a touch less gruesome solution)

 So let’s dig into that a bit and make some points:  Take each of these notes and (where applicable) try to compare them to what you do while you are walking down the hall.


·         It should have an impact on the use of phones and texting in the car.  However, I do see people walking down the halls texting/talking all the time.  The ironic thing is that they are just as good at it as when they are driving, another perfect example of “You Walk Like You Drive”.

·         Would guys still be able to blast the radio or thump the bass?  Would they still be able to eat while driving?  You can’t very well talk with your mouth full can you?  What would your Mother say?!

·         Would you still sing in the car or would you let the artist sing it for you for a change?

·         Would the ladies still primp, preen, and apply various coats of spackle while they drive?

·         Would you use your horn anymore?  I don’t often see someone walking around squeezing their “Ooogha Horn” anytime someone pauses a millisecond too long at a hallway intersection! (I say “not often” because there are all types of “clowns” in this world)

·         Would you tailgate someone, cut them off, cut in front of them or steal their turn at a stop sign?

·         I wonder if there would be less accidents or more?

·         Would you blow a yellow light if you could hear “Grandma” in the other car give you that  shameful “Tisk, Tisk”?

·         Would gunplay increase or decrease?

·         I think police should have this feature too!  Mostly because I want to hear them talking so I know where they are! (that’s a whole other subject)

·         With the way Bluetooth technology is being incorporated into everything from your car to your disposable razor, it would seem the ability to do this is already there.

 I think it’s pretty clear that certain things would have to change.  That brings me back to why are we more polite to people while walking then we are behind the wheel.

 ·         po·lite /pəˈlīt/ Adjective - Having or showing respectful and considerate behavior

 ·         “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”  The Golden Rule

 ·         You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself… - Leviticus 19:18

 ·         Frank Burns said: “it’s nice to be nice to nice

 And for once Frank was right! (he also said, “never have so many suffered so much so that so few could be so happy”, but that’s neither here nor there, it’s just funny!)

 It makes us feel good to be nice to someone else and even better when they are nice back to you.  It really is all we have in this world, our relationship with each other.  So in general I think everyone wants to be nice and in fact I think everyone intends to be nice.  So what is it about being behind the wheel that turns us into raving lunatics!?

 After thinking about it, I think there are quite a few factors.  To begin with I think the car is a truly interesting place to be, almost a different state of being.  Driving requires that you have a certain set of skills and training, but from there it becomes almost an instinct.  I equate it to something similar to military training.  I’ve often heard soldiers say something along the lines of “my training just kicked in and I did my job”.  They train extensively so that their skills become instinctive.  Driving requires this same combination of instinct and training.

 The word instinct implies a baser part of ourselves which means we are tapping into an unrestrained part of our behavior.  So that must contribute to our tendency to be aggressive, quick to judge, and unforgiving.  This is because that is what is required to survive dangerous situations.

 There’s no sugar coating it, driving is dangerous!  Think about it, you can be injured or killed verily easily, in what amounts to the blink of an eye.  This has to play into our instincts as well because we are being threatened by other drivers.  We are constantly being told to “Drive Defensively” so how can you expect people not to be defensive? (here again is another subject, but briefly stated; I don’t personally believe in defensive driving, I have a different take which I will write about at a future date)

 So it’s no wonder that we are in an aggressive, reactive state behind the wheel.  So when someone does something dumb, even mildly stupid we simply react aggressively and judgmentally because we are protecting ourselves.

 But all of these things occur in a vacuum, the vacuum of being alone in the car with the windows rolled up, maybe the radio on.  It’s your own private world in many ways.  Just think about how you are different when you are carrying a passenger versus when you are alone.  You may not drive as fast, brake as hard or even take a turn as aggressively.  In most cases this is because you are “taking care” of your passenger, and that has already tamed you somewhat.

 Now extend that consideration to the other driver and consider the effect.  Even if we can’t talk to each other behind the wheel, there are still some things we can do to tame our reactions somewhat.  Even if our initial reaction is to be judgmental we can at least “short circuit” the long term effects of that reaction.  We can do this by just taking a second to consider a simple question, if the same situation occurred in a hallway how would you react and how would the other person react?  Likely they would apologize for their mistake and you would accept their apology.

 I know it’s tough to let things go, I’m writing this as much to remind myself of that fact as much as for anyone who may read this.  I also understand it’s important to be able to vent and I don’t begrudge anyone that right (especially myself!).  But obsessing over something is also detrimental.

 Finally I want to leave you with this thought.  Since there are no microphones and speakers in cars, who is truly being affected by your yelling and gesturing in the long term?  You’re alone in the car, remember?

Good Luck and Drive Safely (that goes for the idiots too!)

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