After school today, the kids and I headed over to Cafe Ra in Wallingford to meet Bryan for lunch. Just before getting on to Route 15, I came to a traffic light, where I had just missed the left-turn arrow. I still had the green light, but noontime traffic was thick, and it didn't look as though an opportunity for turning was going to present itself. No big deal; I wasn't in a rush, and it's a pretty quick light. I could wait.
Now, by no means am I a tentative driver. I'm not aggressive; just generally impatient. Hey, I grew up in the Boston area; it's in my blood. But when I have my kids in the car, I don't take any chances. I'd rather suffer through another cycle of red-yellow-green than bear the guilt of putting my children's safety at risk.
So I was quite surprised when, after having resigned myself to waiting with somewhat forced patience, I was assaulted by the sound of an angry horn from behind. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw an older woman, probably in her late sixties, yelling and gesturing wildly. I looked back at the light. It turned red. She beeped again, this time with more emphasis.
I turned around to confront her through my back windshield. She looked me square in the eye and gave me the finger. This respectable looking upper-middle-aged woman in a shiny Mercedes. Flipping me off because I hadn't pulled out in front of traffic.
I didn't want to alarm the kids, but I did want to have a word. I threw up my hands and mouthed, "Where could I have gone?"
She screamed back, "I don't know! I don't know!" But this acknowledgment seemed only to fuel her anger. She fired up her other middle finger, so that while she was screaming and convulsing, she was giving me the "double flip."
"Classy," I mouthed. Her reply was the verbal version of the finger.
As I said, I'm generally not a patient person, so on some level, I should probably "get" road rage. But I don't. Haven't since I was in my mid-twenties, when I finally realized what a selfish driver I'd become: tailgating other drivers because I hadn't left myself enough time to get to where I was going and now blamed the slower cars in front of me for making me late; swearing in frustration every time I had to sit in traffic; speeding just because there didn't seem to be a reason not to. Somewhere during that time I picked up a book on the "Buddha within," and realized how much negative energy I was storing, and exhaling into the universe.
I've often felt that, when driving on Connecticut highways, I'm an unwitting participant in a game to which I don't know the rules. Bryan, who has lived here his whole life, is far more tuned in. He knows what other drivers are thinking, and, as it turns out, most of them have an underlying agenda, usually one that does not have Bryan's best interests in mind. Before moving here, I had no idea that a highway was really a complex web of mind games in which automobile operators sought to outwit their fellow commuters--otherwise known as opponents--by employing such tactics as the Variable Speed Maneuver, the Cell Phone Shuffle, and the Box-In. All of these moves are executed while the driver feigns nonchalance, which is probably why I had been naive enough to believe they were mostly just driving.
Crazy Mercedes Lady is in need of some guidance, it seems, as she hasn't quite mastered the mask of indifference--or was she employing some other, more devious strategy? So much to learn, so much to learn. . . .