Story # 52: Road Rage!
In preparation for relating the following story, I asked the two people who know me better than anyone to describe my character. Among the many attributes my husband listed were such terms as “Soft-hearted, mild, loyal, smart, stubborn, focused, creature of habit”. My sister Deb’s thoughts, while including a few of those negatives only a sister would know, basically agreed with my husband’s list, adding “kind, least judgmental, generous and problem solver.” Prior to your reading onward, it is important to note that although “stubborn” was among those attributes included by both, neither listed any term remotely related to “hair-trigger temper, prone to anger” or “occasional urge to kill.” This is important in understanding just why the following incident created such a huge jolt to my system and assumed self-awareness.
Washington DC Beltway
Anyone living in the Washington DC area has either heard the tales or personally experienced the joys and terrors of driving on the I-495 beltway . I already reported a couple of my experiences on 495 in my Blog Post # 21: Giving Myself Room To Stop.Today I want to relate another event that nearly had me give up driving forever.
I had taken a job in Maryland as a Public High School Cued Speech Transliterator. The daily commute around the 495 beltway (our home was south of DC, and the Maryland High School was several miles to the north of the city) sometimes took me 2 to 3 hours one way. And those were not relaxed, easy-driving hours. They were driving on a six to ten lane wide (each direction) expressway, in the middle of many drivers who, even though bumper to bumper, insisted on going 50 to 60 mph. In other words, driving that road required constant hyper-vigilance
I also had to drive the same beltway anytime I picked up our young son from school
One day I had picked him up after getting off work and was headed home. The car in front of me had slowed down, so I slowed down. The man behind me evidently didn’t like me slowing down. He suddenly zoomed around me. Apparently only then realizing he had nowhere to go in the dense traffic, he immediately squeezed his way back in between my car and the one in front of me.
What changed this incident from just another crazy driver move into a life-changing moment was my unexpected reaction. As he had passed me, he decided he needed to honk at me, and for good measure added a rude hand gesture. All because I had slowed down so as to not hit the car in front of me!
I was at first amazed he was angry with me instead of the car in front of me — what did he want me to do? I think he wanted me to tail-gate the car in front of me to convince it to go faster. (I suspect this because he tail-gated me when I slowed down.) It’s not like I’d never seen other drivers tailgate, recklessly pass other cars, honk, or wave rude hand gestures before. But perhaps what triggered this time to go to a whole new frightening level was the combination of all of them at the same time, and all directed at me.
Much to my surprise, I suddenly got road rage against this man! Evidently all the pent up frustrations of driving so many hours at high speed with crazy drivers all added up and hit me at once. It was like a switch suddenly turned on in me! At that moment, I truly wanted to kill that man. Now that he was in front of me I wanted to put our van’s gas pedal to the floor and ram him as hard as I could. We were already going about 50 mph and I had my foot on the accelerator starting to slam it down. But at that moment I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw our little son in his carseat. I suddenly realized my rage was about to endanger our son. In an instant that brought me to my senses and I jerked my foot off the gas pedal.
But even though the moment of danger had passed, I was amazed to find the wanting to kill someone feeling was still there. Until that moment, I had only kind, benevolent feelings towards other people. Sometimes they annoyed me or I might get mad, but most of the time I would agree with my husband and sister — I am easy to get along with. I definitely had never ever ever wanted to actually kill someone before, much less be ready to act upon it. It was an alarming feeling. I began to realize how close I came to total disaster.
So when I got home, I handed my car keys to my husband and said “I can’t drive anymore, I’ll kill someone”.
Once the emotions of the moment passed, I eventually came to understand that was not a practical solution. Instead, I went to counseling and therapy for road rage, and learned the importance of priorities (family) and deep breaths. Now, thinking about my highest priorities during moments of madness brings me back to being sane.
Thank goodness my road rage was cured, but I still decided not to re-enlist for the transliterating job the next school year — the commute was just too hard.
LESSON LEARNED: Before doing something irreversible, remember my priorities.
LESSON LEARNED: When I recognize I’m about to do something completely opposite my normal character, I need to STOP, and remind myself to consider my motivations and the consequences before charging ahead.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t be too quick to say “I would never…” It may simply be you are lucky enough not to have yet experienced the right trigger.
LESSON LEARNED: Commutes and jobs go together like music and a singer; if you hate the one, it’s hard to love the other.
Interested in learning ASL? See my “ASL Word Of The Day” at:
Interested in learning Cued Speech? See my “Cued Speech Word Of The Day” at:
Have a good week!
— Donna Gateley