Road Rage

Until you came up behind me, I was on cruise control.

I pegged you for another of those nose-pickers of the interstate.

But when I moved to pass a truck, you sped up to tailgate me. You got behind me — breathing down my neck — and then you flashed your headlights. You know I couldn’t hear your car horn. But flashing your headlights meant I was supposed to get out of your way.

But I was doing ten miles above the speed limits already. Hey, pal, you shouldn’t ask me to get out of your way when I’m already speeding.

But I moved aside and then I thought —

How dare you get angry!

My job is not to help you break the laws.

How do you like someone riding your ass?

You being in front of me means a lot to you. And I guess if we were both going to a mutually agreed-upon destination, you crossing the finish line ahead of me might matter. But we aren’t — which makes you look shallower than the bird bath in my back yard.

I learned the two-second rule on following other cars. I’m following the guy ahead of me, minding my own business, not pushing him. Then you jumped between us. You don’t respect the distance I’m trying to keep. You don’t respect me.

But I forgive and I forget.

Then the next day you’re back.

You came up behind me and rode me, bumper to bumper, until you were close enough to see who printed my bumper sticker. And I was supposed to ignore that?

You take it as a personal affront that I am in the lane ahead of you. Man, I was here first. I was here before you.

I saw you. You only speeded up because I got in front of you.

I got your number, son of a bitch.

You don’t own the road. So you wait. You hang back until I’m done with it.

Stop pushing me, I bitched when you drove past. Inside your car, you were busy looking at your watch.

I made faces at you when you sped past me. I looked mean and angry, as if I had been squinting into the morning sun. But you didn’t look my way. You didn’t care about me. Drinking coffee from your commuter mug was more important.

I thought about it afterwards. I’m driving two tons of steel, you’re driving two tons of steel, and you want to play kiddy games at freeway speeds?

You don’t have stopping distance.

Why don’t you go suck a knife?

But then — You’re the same clown I saw on the surface streets. You come from behind me, cut around me, jump back into my lane, you cut me off, and I have to slow down or rear-end you, and then you speed up and get my green light and I have to wait until the light turns greens again.

Yeah, I saw you on the surface streets a second time, too. You come from behind me, cut in front of me, we go about a dozen yards, then you hit the brakes, and make a right turn into a driveway ahead of me, making me hit my brakes, and I’m cursing you.

After, I feel like I ran four miles. I have to take deep slow breaths to catch myself.

Listen — I’ve always been annoyed that speeders "expect" us to let them speed. Who says we have to let ’em? Why should I care that some clown gets angry because I’m obeying the laws of the road?

But then I saw you again. You like to sit back there like a bandit in the bushes, ready to bushwhack me, ready like an enemy jet aimed at my blind side.

I was in the right lane, and you saw me coming up behind a semi, and you were behind me in the left lane — and you sped up to pass me.

A slow-moving truck was coming down the on-ramp ahead of us — and you sped up to keep me from moving into the left lane.

You saw the same thing ahead of us that I saw. You saw how slowly that semi coming down the off-ramp a quarter-mile ahead of us was moving. You saw how he was going to take over the lane in front of me. But you sped up just fast enough to cut me off.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe it! As soon as I put the turn signal on, you — the guy behind me — you sped up to cut me off and keep me from moving into the passing lane, blocking me from entering your lane, keeping me from moving into the fast lane, forcing me to slow down to match the speed of a slow-moving semi entering the Interstate.

You were talking on your cell phone as you drove past me, too busy flapping your lips with your office or your wife or your client to pay attention to my needs. But that wasn’t all, either. I guess you’re too oblivious to me to care about me as you drifted over the yellow line into my lane, but you insist I should be responsive to you.

Now I know who you are and I see you every night at this time. All you have to do is get home, right?

Do you really have to get home before me?

Will the world end if you don’t get home earlier than everybody in front of you? Does everybody in front of you have to move out of your way and get home after you? Does nothing in the world work right tonight unless you get home first?

Who the hell are you?

You would rather run me off the road rather than let me slow your driving.

Where are you going that is so important?

Are you bleeding?

Why don’t you call for an ambulance?

Do you need to go pee? Is your teeny weenie what makes you drive so fast?

Why are you so sneaky?

Do you think you’re getting away with something?

When you force me out of what I want to do, you are telling me your life is more important than mine is.

Because there was another time–

I got out of your way — got into the right lane — and then, after you passed me, you got into my lane and slowed down, and then I was stuck behind you.

You know, one day I wrote down your license numbers, thinking I would look you up later and see if you remembered the terrible way you drove on the Interstate. But the folks at Motor Vehicles wouldn’t give your home address out.

These days I am so tempted to follow you home, to wherever you are going, fool, where a fool like you lives, and just tell you to your face what an ingrate and a bully and a jackass you are.

I tried following you home. But then I couldn’t, because I realized I would be just like you. If I match your speed, I’m as bad a driver as you are. That’s how you got away with it last time.

If I do find out where you live, you might want to get someone to start your car for you.

Who are you?

The Bully.

I confess you do intimidate me when I see you fast approaching me in my rear view mirror. How fast are you going? I wonder. Are you smart enough, quick enough, to stop in time? And my heart starts throbbing and my throat constricts.

Yes. You intimidate me.

Sometimes my palms are red from gripping the wheel.

But then you come back at me the next day. I can’t believe how quickly you cut in front of me. You wanted me to hit the brakes.

You have been counting on me being civilized enough not to hit your car. But you have been pushing the envelope too long.

I drive differently now.

I look inside your vehicle now. I see who you are.

You’re always on the phone.

When you cruise past, I want to speed up and rear-end you so hard, you lose control and careen off the road into the ditch.

I don’t mind you trying to go around me. I would do the same in your place. It’s how you try to intimidate me — even worse — try to kill me — that gets me riled.

I feel shame. My face shows it.

How come you drive so bad?

The other night I saw you back there, ten cars back, matching my speed, just sitting there for the last two minutes. But — I watched — and as soon as I got behind a semi and moved to pass that truck — I looked in the rear view mirror, and you were moving up on me.

I saw you closing the gap between us, closing in on me, galloping up the miles and speeding like the Greyhound bus after midnight. I saw you speeding up and then you were tailgating me, you rude bastard, so closely I couldn’t see your headlights!

You’re driving me crazy!

If you don’t kill me first.

So . . . You do it your way.

So . . . You don’t have to follow the same rules as everybody else.

So . . guess how I feel about you.

I want to squeeze your neck like an orange until the juice is gone.

I want you dead.

Why am I so pissed? Because I should be looking forward and not fearing what’s behind me.

Think about this: Have you ever gotten onto the Interstate, driven for a hundred miles, then woke up? You got there — wherever there is — on automatic, you tell yourself. Did you know the purpose of the Interstate Highway System was to get you from here to there without you having to think too hard?

You screw it up, jerk-off!

Yeah, that’s it. We’re baby-sitting you — me and the rest of us normal drivers — we are making a collective decision to let you pretend you’re powerful and cool, that you deserve to get ahead of us, that we will forgive and forget the lunatic way you drive and the criminal way you make us change the way we drive.

We have to baby-sit you.

You sit up there in your captain’s chair in your SUV, jockeying for position on the freeway, a cigarette in one hand, your cell phone in your other.

You are a fool. You take too much for granted.

If I slam on the brakes — you’re dead meat.

Push me and I will push back.

You should never do something that your insurance company will call you an asshole when they hear about it.

But you can’t stop being a fool.

I heard once somebody say that there was just one miserable son of a bitch who spends his entire day going from person to person making each person’s day miserable.

I want to be him for you.

So now I plan on getting back at you.

Want to know what am I going to do?

I will do what I can to piss you off. When I see you coming behind me, speeding faster than the Greyhound bus, right when you’re a couple of car lengths behind me, I will swerve — just a tire or two — over the line and into your lane. And I will watch you wake up and slow down and hesitate, wondering if I am drunk or having a heart attack.

As you get close behind me, I will suddenly — deliberately — swerve over t he white line — both left tires, and I will startle you.

When you go to pass me, I will start matching speed with you, and then I’ll start pushing you to go faster, faster, faster, and start sliding over the dotted line, to make you flinch.

When you tailgate me, oh, I will move aside and let you pass. Then I will speed up and get in the fast lane behind you and tailgate you, just like you did to me. And I will have my brights on, just like you did to me. Right in your rear view mirror.

I can see myself getting behind you on the Interstate. When we get stuck behind other cars in the fast lane, I will flash my headlights once a minute for the entire ten minutes you are stranded in place in front of me, locked into a position you don’t want.

Move aside, my brights will say, move aside, you son of a bitch.

Ahead you will see a semi passing another semi. We will all be stuck behind them. When you speed up and tailgate me — are you going to pass all of us — cars and semis both — on the left ?

That’s grass out there!

Sometime you are going to end up being behind me doing 75, stuck behind me, last in line, a half-dozen cars ahead of you, and you self-absorbed son of a bitching leadfoot will be stuck behind me while a semi will be passing another semi ahead of us.

For a minute I will be tempted to stick my arm out of the window and motion you to go around me and the other six cars ahead of me that are blocking us. Hell, you could do that — you could ride the grassy center strip of the freeway.

If you want to ride the grass in the center of the freeway, you go for it. I won’t stand in your way.

Listen: I will be ahead of you. You be patient. You wait.

When you do pass me, you will flip me off with the Finger.

You will think it’s over then. What you won’t expect —

I will chase after you, get behind you, and start all over.

See, pal, I like playing mind games on the Interstate. Maybe I know my games will backfire and kill me, but the thrill of screwing you over keeps me alive.

I just want to piss you off.

Monsters always want revenge. Or they die trying. When I get that rage inside me going strong, I don’t care about you. Afterwards maybe I’ll say I don’t know what came over me. But I will be lying. I will know what came over me.

You’ve been driving me crazy!

Tomorrow I’m bringing my gun.

I will pull out in front of you when you want to pass me. I will watch you fume in the rear view mirror.

I’ll bring my slide automatic to show you I mean business. I’ll hold it up so you can see it — and I will rack the action.

You get out of your car and come at me, I will kill you.

I swear to god.

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