I’ve caught myself mentioning that I’m calm, or that I’ve nothing to get worked up about these days. That days of unrelenting stress and palpable anxiety are over. For the most part, it’s true, because most of my catalysts have been removed. But I know myself too well. It’s all there. Waiting. Sometimes, I feel that I carry around what has seriously angered me in life, and it surfaces unexpectedly with little provocation.
A couple of days ago, I jumped in the car to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I didn’t really want to go and know I can easily talk myself out of anything on Earth if given a moment, so glanced at my face in the mirror, put on a few dabs of makeup that wouldn’t fool a two-year-old, and was off.
It’s only a five minute drive if I don’t hit the traffic lights, and downhill most of the way. But the road is heavily used, winding through compact residential areas, and has the usual 25-35 mph speed limit. Invariably, someone at some point on this very short drive will be in an enormous hurry. It never fails. And that day, the woman had to have been on her way to a fire.
I could tell, because the image of her steel grey Jeep Cherokee grew in my rearview mirror quickly. The routine goes something like this: speed right up to the next person’s bumper and then slam on your brakes to exhibit frustration with any car that has the audacity to be in the way.
The person in front of me was doing more than the posted speed limit, and I was right behind, keeping pace. I was, however, also aware of the distance between her rear bumper and my car, and it was a safe distance. Not the three and a half car lengths that I should have been for our speed, but two and three quarters, and safe.
Unfortunately, the lovely brunette driving the Cherokee behind me didn’t agree. After all but pushing me downhill, and riding my bumper so closely that she could have wrapped her pouty peach lips around my exhaust pipe, she demonstrably parked her left elbow on her door frame, and pushed her head into her palm. Thoroughly. Disgusted. And could I please notice this in my mirror so, like, she could be on her way.
I’ve often wondered about this particular brand of young female driver, and what their IQ is. Perhaps she wasn’t quite sure about how traffic works. That the car in front of her can’t travel more quickly than the car in front of it. I know it’s a difficult concept to wrap a brain around, but still. Or perhaps her rules are different than mine. I was to have shown some sort of Mean Chick solidarity by riding the bumper of the car in front of me. Show her my indignation. Sure, that would work. Uh, no.
At some point, the road split into two lanes at a traffic light that had just turned red. I chose to get in the left lane as I’d soon need to make a turn into the store. The Jeep Princess behind me chose to go to the right, ironically behind the woman who had been in front of me. As she pulled up alongside me, I could feel the anger rising up, surprising me with its intensity. My passenger side window was already rolling down, almost involuntarily, and I saw her head turning to look at me in that classic “you moron” move. So predictable.
I screamed at her through the window before it was down, catching a flicker of surprise on her face. “You stupid b*tch! It’s a little difficult to go as fast as you need me to go with another car in front of me. Sh*t! Perhaps she wasn’t used to getting a reaction out of anyone quite like this. My heart was pounding, and I was amazed at the anger I felt.
Her defensive and barely discernible smirk just about did me in. What must it be like to feel so entitled, so important, so completely and utterly self-absorbed that the world is at your beck and call. I wanted to jump out of my car and rip her eyeballs out. Mess up her hair. Smear her lipstick. But only for a second. My heart was pounding.
As the light turned green, I noticed that she was stuck behind the woman who had been in front of me, but her persistence had an interesting effect on the car in front of her. It sped up, and she would soon pass me. At least she had the intelligence to not look at me again as she passed, her elbow perched once again in the window, blocking her face from view. But I caught a glimpse of a smile as she passed and when there was just enough space to get by, pull in front of my car, and speed away.
As I made my left turn, I could see that she had been forced to make a stop at the next red light, but I felt no vindication because I was still wrapped up in my reaction to the whole thing.
Where had that anger come from? I’d like to think it’s because tailgating is extremely dangerous and that I’d like to live a very long time and don’t appreciate people who drive like jerks. But I believe it’s much less logical than that.
I’ve never cared for those who behave so arrogantly that others are expected to bow in their path. They expect. They take advantage. They are brash, and humiliate. They mock, and taunt. And they travel in packs. They cause harm and use and abuse others with no regard for anything but themselves. And then they move on, trashing everything and everyone in their wake.
Clearly, this isn’t just about a woman in a car who was tailgating.
And no, I’m not calm.