Saturday, July 16, 2005

Road Rage

Why do I feel justified in bearing down relentlessly on any hapless driver who has just unwittingly pulled out in front of me and hasn't the courtesy or clue to accelerate to accommodate my current speed?
The assumption made by myself (and I suspect it's universal) is that the driver in question made a calculating decision to impede my progress. The driver in question is an arrogant, inconsiderate hack who purposed in his heart to cut me off and his punishment is to quail in the glaring daggers of my headlights (if it's nighttime) and sorrowfully regret the wicked error of his way.
One comforting school of thought is that automobiles alter or somehow negate the personality of its inhabitant and we are not to be held personally responsible for the attitudes displayed in flashing high beams and squealing tires. We all are guilty of automotive aggression and this somehow cancels out our debt of guilt as we all park and slide out from behind the wheel and remove our sunglasses and smile sheepishly at eachother. Its just those blasted cars!
If only it were true.
One discomforting school of thought is that the impersonal, anonymous identity we assume while driving behind tinted windows causes us to channel our true nature. There are no immediate consequences (hopefully) to tailgating or verbally bludgeoning the driver in front, behind or beside us. Pop psychology would tell me its just a natural healthy way of releasing the steam valve on the pressure cooker of everyday life. Pop psychology might also tell me its a symptom of some deep-seated, bottled-up anger I harbor toward the world in general. I suspect that, as usual, the diagnoses of pop psychology may accidentally contain some elements of truth. miniscule though they may be.
No doubt stress does play a part and no doubt the privacy of an automobile lends itself to a certain amount of angry honesty.
But those are sideline issues.
I realize this is somewhat of a societal ill, an affliction brought on all the habitants of earth who drive, but I'm a Christian. Shouldn't this concern me?
I certainly can't blame it all on cars, any more than I could blame the availability of the Internet if I had a propensity for pornography. Technological and industrial advances do have a way of presenting fresh new spiritual quandaries, though, don't they?
I choose to judge the glass half full, however, and view this as an opportunity to strengthen the bond with divine wisdom, rather than a conspiracy to trip me up, or, more familiarly, another sign of "these last days." I think James might not mind if we were to add an uninspired addendum to James 3:2. Any man able to bridle the tongue while driving a car is able to bridle the whole body.
There's a really blunt question fighting to be asked through all of this.
Is this private war I wage with my fellow drivers a sign of spiritual deficiency?
Is it really Christian to want this idiot who pulled out in front of me to know I think that was really stupid so I'm just gonna tailgate him for a while until he knows I'm really ticked off?
I apologize if this blog is too self-absorbed. My intention while blogging is to address an issue that affects us all, and this is one time when I would ask for responses from whoever reads this if you would be so kind. Anonymous, or otherwise, tell me, am I alone?
One thing I am sure of; the sheepish guilt that loosens my grip on the wheel when at last I roar past in the passing lane and catch a fleeting glimpse of the little white-headed grandmother, hands tightly on ten and two, peering through the top rim of the steering wheel at the terrifying and bewildering road ahead.
Oh, dear God, am I so petty?
I suppose the debate about whether or not road rage is indicative of spiritual malnutrition or spiritual immaturity is somewhat pointless, IF I resolve to remedy the situation, whether it be with a balanced spiritual diet, in the case of the former, or graduating from milk to meat, in the case of the latter.


Jen said...

Well, I don't think you are alone. I'm not like that but I am sure there is somebody out there that is.

Just kidding. Except that it is not so much when people pull out in front of me that makes me upset, I mean it is a little frustrating but I wouldn't say I get upset. What does make me upset, (upset only because saying "mad" is CERTAINLY not Christian) is when somebody purposfully does not let you in when trying to change lanes or when merging onto the interstate. Now that makes me SO upset. (not mad) I mean, what can be so wrong with slowing up a smidge so...oh, don't get me started. Anyway. I am not saying that the fact that I have some of the the same problems makes it okay, but...maybe... something we should work on?.?

Bill said...

I was particularly interested in your post, because I have been thinking about the subject lately. I feel like I respond to drivers like I would never respond to someone in person. I had decided that it is because you normally can't see the driver, and so you just put a face on him or her of a smart-aleck or worse. Is that a cop-out?

Dee said...

I would have to say that rage experienced on the road, in my humble and personal opinion, is a human failure.
It's an area in which we could take the opportunity to "move toward the head of the class".
We shouldn't be discouraged though...If we were always perfect in every way, what would be the purpose of the Lord. We would be "gods" in the sense that we would have no need of dependence on a Power bigger than ourselves.
So, thank you, Lord, that I'm a human who needs mercy & grace each day as I slid behind the wheel, turn out the driveway, and land smack-dab behind a powder-puff who has no where to go!

Chari said...

I know the feeling. When I am driving, I try to remember the little symbol on the back of my car. What kind of witness is it to roar past someone and for them to see that little fish disappear over the horizon? However, I still get frustrated when not all drivers are as careful as me. :)