NJ road rage gunfire: 7 things to try when you’re this angry
Something happened earlier this month that I think could potentially happen to anybody given just the right set of circumstances with just the right amount of stress. What happened could result in years in prison for a 39-year-old New Jersey guy.
Gerald S. Chapman is facing attempted murder charges after police say he had a bout of road rage. According to authorities, he was attempting to merge in front of another driver on Easton Avenue at the ramp to I-287 in Franklin.
“According to the victim, there was no room for the suspect to merge, at which time the suspect became irate and slapped the passenger side mirror on the victim’s vehicle,” Somerset County Prosecutor John P. McDonald said.
He went on to explain that when the driver got out to check on any damage Chapman pulled next to him and fired two shots at him but struck the vehicle. Authorities say Chapman pulled away but was later identified as the gunman in an investigation the FBI got involved in. He's now been charged with first-degree attempted murder and a weapons offense in the second degree.
Look, I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm just a person who's been there when it comes to getting furious on the road. While I reserve my anger for people who actually did something incredibly dangerous and dumb which doesn't sound like the case here, anger is still anger and it can't be given in to.
In my unqualified, total layman's perspective, here are seven things I think might help.
1) Stop assuming it was on purpose.
When someone does something entirely reckless and offensive it's hard to think they couldn't have known what they were doing. But try to immediately allow that just maybe, somehow, they were either so distracted or so sadly stupid they didn't go through that red light or pull out right in front of you on purpose.
2) Picture your mom.
Even if it was on purpose, picture what your mom would want you to do next. It's hard to defy the wishes of the person who brought you into the world. Picture her face and the fear in her eyes if she saw you trying to escalate matters.
3) Realize the hero doesn't always throw a punch.
If you know the film "To Kill A Mockingbird" you know Atticus Finch has every reason to throttle the racist Bob Ewell when he spits in his face. You also know he can physically dominate him. Instead, he controls his anger rather than letting it control him. He wipes his face, puts away the handkerchief, and stoically stares at Ewell. Be Finch.
4) Assume there's a gun.
You may want to just get out of your car to yell some common sense into somebody. I get it. When you've been horribly wronged you want that to be known. But we're living at a time where tempers are short and shots are being fired.
If you look at Chapman's mugshot in the I-287 merge case he doesn't look like he would have a gun. Guess what? There is no 'look.' Anyone can. Assume they do.
5) Separate yourself in traffic.
If you're angry enough to get out of the car at the next red light (or they might do something to challenge you), it's smart to slow down, pull over for gas, go around the block, anything so you're not seeing their car, anything to give a mile or so separation.
Remember the idiot who did the dumb move often doesn't realize it and can easily be thinking you were the aggressor. How many times has someone cut you off and they give you the finger? It happens daily.
The more angry you are and the more you feel it's wrong to pull off and let the jerk just have the road the more reason there is to do exactly that. It's de-escalation. Force yourself to do it.
6) Never try to make eye contact
I’m telling you, as angry as this other driver made you, as much as your urge to just ‘see what kind of idiot is driving this car,’ never, ever try pulling up to look in at them. It immediately makes it personal for both of you and when it’s two males it becomes primal, and personal, and it won’t stop there.
For the same reason you don’t make eye contact with a bear, don’t seek out eye contact when you’re angry.
7) Realize it’s not weak to walk away
The easiest thing to do when you’re angry is lean into it, take it to the next level. When you’re angry it feels good to let it out. The harder thing to do is almost always the right thing to do in life.
Think about your children if you have them. Or your significant other. You’re not going to make that stupid driver smarter by screaming at them. Is it worth being shot by someone that stupid? Is it worth your kids being without you? Do the harder thing.
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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