A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the radio when Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran, who is also a well-known radio personality in these parts through her work on WPAQ, was chatting with State Highway Patrolman E. Van Tate.
Trooper Tate was talking about several things, but one which caught my attention was his relaying how some people seem to lose all sense of decorum once they are behind the wheel of a car, truck, or SUV.
I believe the better-known term is road rage.
The reason this struck a chord with me was that just minutes earlier I had been approaching a stop sign when a car turned onto my road, and he cut the turn so sharply that he came well into my lane. I had to come to a rather abrupt halt to avoid colliding with the other car.
Naturally, my first instinct was to give the horn a little tap. Then as he drove by I held my hands up as if to say “what the heck?” while I did, in fact, say “what the heck?”
Then I recognized the driver — it was my neighbor, a gentleman who lives right across the street from me. This is a guy I chat with while mowing the yard. Occasionally while he’s out with his weed-wacker, he’ll trim some weeds at the end of my drive just to save me some trouble. Last summer, when a storm blew through and knocked a tree down in his yard, my sons and I spent a good portion of a Sunday afternoon helping him cut it up and dispose of the debris.
And now I was honking my horn at him simply because he cut a turn a little close.
A few minutes later I hear Mayor Cochran and Trooper Tate on the radio, talking about how otherwise calm, rational people sometimes lose all sense of self-control while on the highway.
Now I don’t want you to get the idea I’m some madman, laying on the horn or running right up on the bumper of anyone who offends me with their driving. But that morning’s events — first, acting like a bit of an idiot, then hearing Mayor Cochran and the good trooper talking about the need to just relax, take a breath and don’t get so uptight on the highway — showed me that maybe I need to re-examine how I interact with folks on the roads.
And I’d like to encourage you to do the same. Yes, the way some folks drive can be maddening. Even dangerous. But in the end what good does it do to get bent out of shape, yell at them, lay on the horn, or demonstrate your anger in any other way? You don’t do that at home. You don’t do that in the work place, at church, in the grocery store, or most anywhere else. So why do we believe it’s okay to act in such a manner on the highways?
As a driver you might be strapped into a 3,500-pound machine that gives you the illusion of power and strength, but in the end, you’re just a person, and so is the driver of the other car — he (or she) might be your neighbor, coworker, or someone you’re going to see at church Sunday morning.
Treat them on the highway the same as you’d treat them anywhere else.