I’m not terribly prone to road rage. It’s rare that I honk in anger, or scream and curse, and I think I’ve only ever flipped someone off once (after some careful deliberation). I think what I get is better labelled as Road Tics.
In other words, I gesticulate and make odd noises, but there’s very little anger behind them, and… well, they’re not the standard angry gestures.
Last night I was driving home in some mild (by Bay Area standards) traffic. A hole opened up in the lane next to me; I began to move into it, just as someone two lanes over did the same. We both saw each other, and moved quickly back into our own lanes, and then, when I saw the hole was still there and I was still positioned, I took the space.
As they passed me moments later, I could see the passenger had turned to face me and was screaming something. He didn’t look happy. Sort of idly, without even meaning to, I raised my hand with my forefinger, middle finger, and thumb extended… kind of like a gun.
I have no earthly idea why I did that. I wasn’t angry; I think I was even giving him a slight smile, in a “Hey man, it’s cool, we both did the same thing and were in the right, and hey, we even both saw each other in time to avoid a collision, aren’t we great drivers” kind of way. Collegial, you know? Not menacing or creepy — calming. I don’t think it had the intended effect. They fell behind, and stayed there.
I do this all the time. A hand raised in exasperation starts rotating, and turns into this weird “smell my breath” motion. One time, I barked. Like, a lot. Like, I rolled my window down and was barking at the top of my lungs at this woman who was trying to cut in front of me, across a solid line, after I’d been stuck in unmoving gridlock for the past 58 minutes, moving less than a half a mile.
Okay, so that one might have had some rage behind it. But she sure didn’t know that; she just looked mildly annoyed, then massively confused. And sped away from me.
Now that I think about it, I think these tics are pretty excellent survival mechanisms. They keep people away, like bright colors and spikes on lizards, without escalating the rage of any of my fellow highway drones. If I had any control over them whatsoever, maybe I could use them in other areas of my life.
“I’m sorry, the grant deadline is when?” *patting my head, flaring my nostrils, and sticking my tongue out* “Oh, great, four weeks. I thought you said four hours.”
“You need a break?” *ripping open my shirt, biting my lip, and blinking rapidly* “Oh, we should go on a mini-break. Great idea! Paris, on you? Sweet.”
“I’m sorry… did you say marry?” *thumb to nose, fingers waggling madly, and off-key humming* “Oh, no, right, merry meet back to you.”