Usually I don’t have a lot of passengers, save for the dog when she’s not on crate rest. Rarely do I have human passengers, and this has become increasingly true in the past few years. This is and has always been especially true of road trips. Since I first obtained my license at seventeen, I have often climbed behind the wheel of whatever treacherous death wagon I owned at the time to take off to wherever I felt like going. Mostly my trips have always taken me throughout the Midwest. Ironically, I have taken less road trips in the past six years since I bought my Big Girl Car than I did in all my former unsafe vehicles. Back when I smoked, I loved the feeling of being behind the wheel of a car on a long stretch of highway, smoking a cigarette, rocking out to super loud music, unrestrained and with my whole life in front of me. There is something decidedly paradoxical about reveling in having one’s whole life ahead of oneself whilst partaking in one of the most life-threatening activities an American person can do and also engaging in a habit that almost inevitably leads to health complications. Such is the unique stupidity of youth.
Whether road trips or local get-togethers, typically if I am going somewhere, I meet people there. So everyone’s exposure to my driving habits and abilities is limited. It turns out that I have this habit that has only been called out in the past few years, a habit the extent of which I would have likely remained blissfully unaware forever, were it not for assertive passengers: road rage. It’s not the kind of road rage where I turn red faced and scream at strangers and honk my horn. It is a muted rage, a sort of Dexter-esque acrimony that manifests in a quiet string of expletives and name calling within the safe confines of my own steel and glass cage. The safety of my Subaru shields me from the embarrassment and discomfort of anyone ever hearing the unspeakable epithets I spew every time I’m behind the wheel of my car. The thing is, I know I do it. I am fully aware of the fact that I tailgate and I cuss and I get super pissed at every other motorist as well as every single pedestrian and all the bicyclists in the world every time I drive. There are no hard and fast guidelines, and it is not something that other motorists or pedestrians or bicyclists could maybe avoid if they followed a certain set of rules. It isn’t like particularly slow drivers irritate me, or I get flustered only by jaywalking pedestrians, or that I am a-okay with bicyclists who follow the Bicycle Rules of the Road (what the hell are the rules for bicycles, anyway? And how may bicyclists actually know those rules, much less adhere to them? SRSLY.)
When I am behind the wheel of a car, I loathe every single sorry person who isn’t me.
Someone is flying down the street, weaving in and out of traffic, and gets right on my tail. They are impatiently waiting to get around me so they can continue their frenzied path to wherever they’re going that is so much more important than the places all the rest of us are going. Usually this asshole is driving a BMW. Because only assholes drive BMWs. I’m fairly certain that’s in the Constitution. There are caveats, of course – I am one such caveat when I am being this asshole, as I sometimes am – because not every asshole on the road is in a BMW. My favorite way of handling this situation is to use my manual transmission to my advantage by downshifting, simultaneously tricking and enraging the BMW. I slow way down, as if braking, but there are no brake lights. Bonus points if I see in my rearview mirror The Asshole throw his or her hands in the air in disgust at my suddenly reduced speed. This is probably the least hostile situation for me because it is fraught with a misguided and sadistic sense of control.
The worst rage stems from the ultra slow driver who brakes too often, stays way too far back from the car in front of them, and never approaches the actual speed limit. The worst thing this driver does is crawl into the turn when they reach their destination. When you are only traveling at somewhere between eight and fifteen miles per hour, it is not necessary to brake. When I am behind this kind of driver, all bets are off. I cannot be held accountable for what I might say or do. The bright red of their brake lights coming on for the umpteenth time in the past half a mile is about the same color as the torrid hatred I feel for them in that moment. Come the fuck on. Are you kidding me? TURN YOUR ASS. It’s in this moment that I have delectable fantasies of slamming my car into the back of theirs, maybe getting out with a baseball bat or a golf club to bash in their brake lights. I don’t want to hurt the person necessarily. Or maybe I do a little, I’ve never explored that in my savage reveries. Usually the fantasy involves only violent property damage; by the time I have reached the end of all the heinous things I will do to their vehicle, they’ve finally completed their turn, at which point I have moved on to some other roadway distraction and all but completely forgotten about them. No sense in holding a grudge.
In a college town, pedestrians are always a wild card. Is that douchebag and all his buddies going to wander into the street? Maybe. What about the group of adorably oblivious Asian girls? Probably. Oh, and look at that hippie feminist chick, all scowly and entitled! Perhaps I should just graze her with the front end of my Subaru, just a light tap to teach her a lesson about staying the fuck in the fucking crosswalk ohmygod you ignorant twat I will RUN YOU OVER WITH MY CAR.
And bicyclists? Listen, I get it. The environment. Mother Earth. Drowning polar bears. Al Gore. Landfills. Carbon emissions. If I were better at not being a shitty Amurican human, I would park my car and ride my bike everywhere I need to go in this town. I did this for a while, rode my bicycle to work and to class, and it feels good to know you’re doing something that’s healthy for you and good for the environment and free. (I only stopped because someone who is even worse than me at not being a shitty Amurican human stole my bike off my front porch). But you know what? I still hate you and your bicycle. When I can’t figure out why the lane of cars ahead of me has all of a sudden slowed to a crawl, and then I see them one-by-one darting into the oncoming traffic lane to get around you? Bile rises up in my throat, and I despise you. I hate myself a little for being such a dick, but mostly I hate you. The real problem is the lack of appropriate bike lanes in the city, the lack of accommodation for bicyclists, the unwillingness of Americans to embrace bicycle travel as an alternative to motor vehicles. I know this. As my most rational and logical self, I am fully aware of the fact that we need to share the road and you’re just trying to get by and do the right thing and stay off the sidewalks. I see you with your helmet and your perfectly practiced hand gestures and I know that you are fighting for your right to be on this roadway, to assert yourself as a healthy and good human being. But I don’t understand your hand gestures. And I can feel you judging me a little bit, the same way I judge drivers when I am on a bike. And when I am behind the wheel of my car trying frantically to get from Point A to Point B, I am not in the mood to be judged, nor am I in the mood to drive six miles per hour behind you. So the conversation inside my car, windows rolled up, goes something like, Oh, fantastic. Nice helmet, jackass. This is a super busy street at rush hour and you know there’s a bike line one street over, but you’re just proving a point, aren’t you? CONGRATUFUCKINGLATIONS, WE GET IT. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE. We have to share the road. Well, guess what, motherfucker? I’ll share the road all over your FACE. Wait, that sounds sexual. AND I DON’T WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A DILLHOLE and I don’t sleep with known dillholes. SERIOUSLY, DUDE, OMG, get out.of.my.WAY. It’s sort of like a Ludacris song, except I’m not half as eloquent as Luda.
It is important to note that the opposite of all this is true when I am the person in the other car, when I am the pedestrian, when I am the bicyclist. My cup overfloweth with so much scorn. This detestation of other motorists and bicyclists and pedestrians has become so deeply ingrained in my everyday existence that I hardly notice what a malevolent monster I sound like to someone sitting in my passenger seat when I seethe something along the lines of, I will fucking end you, brah. I promise, I will rip that polo off of you and shove it down your throat so far that you will shit pastel plaid for the rest of your natural life. When I look up and see raised eyebrows, deep concern, and my friend clutching the door handle as they contemplate jumping from my moving vehicle, it registers that it is apparently not “normal” to spew vitriol at strangers for some truly benign behavior that I have perceived as unforgivable infractions.
I have had a conversation with more than one person wherein they grilled me about my anger, and gently suggested that maybe I need to have that looked at, and perhaps I could just drop them off at the next stop light, no big deal they could totally walk home from here because six miles isn’t that far and they could use the exercise and fresh air anyway. It’s true that I do have some anger. We all do. Mine is perhaps more deeply rooted than that of some other people, given the very real circumstances over which I have a right to be angry. But I would posit that my anger is not outside the realm of normal, and that allowing it to manifest in this way is perhaps healthier than the outlets some other people choose to use. I do not yell at cashiers at grocery stores or gas stations. I do not come home and kick my dog. I do not disparage customer service representatives on phone lines when I am seeking assistance with various services and products. I do not lose my cool in long lines. I am the picture of patience with all sorts of annoying situations that send many humans flying into a white hot rage. The reason I am able to keep myself together is that I have an outlet. Every time I am in my car, I yank open the release valve and I let the scorching steam of all the inequities and wrongdoings of the world come hissing out. I discharge all my disdain at being slighted at work, awkward in social situations, at having disagreements with my loved ones. All the stubbed toes, the spilled coffee on my shirt when I’ve just gotten dressed, the uncertainty about the future, the lost keys, the uncooperative pets, the broken fingernails, the failed relationships, the permanently frizzy hair, the WiFi that won’t work, the dead mother, the difficulty communicating, the bills I can’t seem to keep up with… all of those things and more drift away and dissipate enough to make them bearable on an exhale of me yelling cocksucker in the safety of my vehicle to a person I will probably never meet and who can’t hear me anyway. Unorthodox though it may be, I stand by my method. Sure, I could take up something like kickboxing or karate as an outlet. But then I’d have to deal with all the stupid sons of bitches on the road just to get to and from class.