This morning, I had to be in the office at 8:00 for a meeting. Because I didn't return home last night until midnight (after having been on a business trip to Houston), I was feeling a little less than stellar when I woke up today. But after I smothered the kids in hugs and kisses, I darted off to work. On my less than nine-mile drive in to the office, I heard honking - no less than five times. Not just a "toot-toot" but a HOOOOOOOOOONK! If those horns could speak, they would be saying, "Get off the road, you bumbling fool!"
At one juncture, the man in the car next to me was laying on his horn and honking so aggressively at the person in front of him, who had merely slowed down because she realized that she was in the wrong on-ramp to the freeway and needed to merge, my blood pressure instantly went through the roof and I started to honk at him, for honking at her, before I stopped myself and instead started yelling the Lord's Prayer.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us! And lead us not in to temptation! Please, please, please deliver us from the evil that would occur if I forced this dope off the road and into a ditch!!
Oh, I know better than to let other's reactions behind the wheel upset me. I've taken defensive driving for the past several years through the Smith-System Program, which I can not recommend highly enough. And while I know that the horn has a purpose on the car, I very, very rarely use it because I think it is rude and obnoxious and stress-inducing. Why, I dislike horns so much and was so inflamed by all of the people that used them when we first moved to this area, this is my license plate:
If I'm sitting behind someone at a light and the light turns green, I'll give the person a few solid seconds before I tap my horn. And if someone is merging in to my lane, of course I'll slow down and let them in. Why would I speed up and honk my horn? What if the person inside is sick or sad or dealing with a terrible loss? What if they are a brand new driver and nervous, or what if they are elderly and tentative? Or, what if they are transporting a brand new baby? Or, what if they don't feel comfortable making a turn on green because the cars are coming a bit too fast from their perspective?
What do you think of that, over-zealous horn honker?
Two months ago in Virginia, just down the street from our house, there was a situation where a 57-year old man was driving a car and a 63-year old man behind him, was (purportedly) honking his horn. He honked at him once when the 57-year-old didn't accelerate fast enough once a light turned green, and then he did it again at the next light. As fate would have it, the 57-year-old man, who was a Religious Education teacher at a local Catholic school, really didn't appreciate being honked at and perhaps didn't think to recite the Lord's Prayer.
Instead, he allowed the 63-year old to go in front of him, and then he followed him in to a parking lot, climbed out of the car, approached the man and said, "One day, you're going to get your ass kicked...." before he PUNCHED him in the head. Long story short, the 63-year old died a few days later from a brain bleed resulting from the punch to his head. Resulting from him rudely honking his horn at a stranger who wasn't going fast enough through green lights. Resulting from a general acceptance of behaving uncivilized on the roadways. Resulting from a civilization that unquestionably needs more fiber and general kindness in its diet.
Here's what I think: I think that driving is the most dangerous thing I do all day. And I think there's a rage in a lot of people that lays just below the surface, manifesting itself once people get behind the wheel. This rage especially brews when people are busy and stressed. I think that in more crowded areas, people can completely lose track of their humanity. And I think that this rage, this scary rage, can make us do things that we might never even believe that we would be capable of doing. I know that my neighbors whose daughter goes to the Catholic school, certainly never thought that their education director would be facing homicide charges because of road rage.
It comes as no surprise to me that the drivers of Washington, DC (and the surrounding area), are among the worst drivers in the United States of America. While I try to allow three to four seconds of lead time between myself and the car in front of me, I'm always stunned at how fast and close people around here drive and how not a day passes that when I'm out driving, I'll witness some kind of altercation on the road. As a result of those factors, drivers in this area are 107.3 times more likely to have an accident than the national average. People are generally overworked and overwhelmed and so they take out their frustrations during their long and busy commutes.
Because I'm striving for a better world for my children, in addition to honing my defensive driving skills and demonstrating graciousness to fellow drivers, I'm adding a few of these Shticks to my car...
Already, I expect they will be a favorite thing. I figure, if they add any levity to the insanity that is driving in this region, I think their purchase will be money well spent. I'm just hoping I don't inadvertently hold up the "Jackass" of "WTF!" sign when I meant to hold up the "Thanks!" or "Have A Great Day!"
I anticipate that snafu might cause some trouble.