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:
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
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
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
Would you blow a yellow light if you could hear
“Grandma” in the other car give you that shameful
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
shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your
neighbor as yourself… -
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
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
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
Good Luck and Drive Safely (that goes for the idiots
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