I may have found the road rage antidote
I was driving my 3 year old son with autism to one of his therapies Tuesday morning. Once a week we have to make the more than one hour drive from Flemington to Wayne. Almost at his appointment but with time to spare I decided to stop for gas. That meant changing to the right lane, which I had plenty of room to do. There was a white car ahead of me in the right lane and a silver car sufficiently behind me in the right lane. I used my signal, I moved over smoothly, I never hit my brake once. Had plenty of room. Next thing I know the silver car speeds up to start severely tailgating while I see the driver, a middle-aged guy, going berserk behind the wheel. He was yelling and throwing his arms around.
I put my signal on again and turned in to the gas station and he did the same while screaming something from his window. Then I pulled up to the pump as so see him race around the back of the building and reappear from the other side only to park on the opposite side of the same pump. He gets out of his car and tells the attendant what he wants while still looking agitated and cursing under his breath.
I assumed he was going to come around to my car but before I could find out I lowered my window on his side and calmly asked, “Sir? What’s wrong?”
The key word here is calmly. I don’t know why but through the whole thing I was extremely calm even though his body language clearly indicated he wanted things to become physical.
He yelled, “I WAS COMING HERE TOO!” which honestly didn’t seem to mean anything since I am 100% certain I did not cut this guy off. I had plenty of room and in fact he had to hit the gas and speed up just to tailgate me. I think the issue was simply that because I changed lanes he wasn't getting to the driveway first. (But then again that really doesn’t explain his initial tailgating.)
So I said, calmly, "Sir I don’t know what you feel I did but I didn’t cut you off nor was I trying to.”
“Just learn to drive!”
“Sir I’m sorry if you feel I did anything to you but I definitely saw you and simply switched lanes. I wasn’t trying to make you angry.”
This calm approach seemed to completely disarm the guy. He couldn’t even look me in the eye by this point and just awkwardly said, "Just, uh, watch out next time.”
Again, I was watching out. This guy was never cut off. But I think in his world someone simply getting safely in front of him was somehow demeaning. Must live by the Talladega Nights motto 'If you ain’t First you’re last.'
It occurred to me afterwards in almost every road rage case you probably have two angry people, including the victim. By not answering the anger with anger but rational calmness you can better think clearly in case it does get physical and you might just defuse the entire thing.
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