Like many Americans, I commute to my place of work. A year ago, it was reported that 10.8 million Americans commute an hour to and from their job. That means we spend 520 hours driving to work in the span of a year. That’s hours of radio playing, white knuckling the wheel, getting lost, yelling at the GPS, etc. And I won’t even mention the amount of gas we feed into our cars only to have them spit out the remains in an ironic cloud that chokes us and the earth.
“Mr. Hyde”: Road Rage Edition
Yet, in many cases, the drive is not the problem; it is the other drivers. The slow turners, the speed demons, the huge trucks, you name it, I’ve probably seen it and been furious at it. I’m not sure scientists will ever be able to pinpoint the exact gene in the human body that, when the switch is flipped, could turn Mother Theresa into a monster truck driver. However, when people get behind a wheel, we all seem to experience the white hot hate that is road rage. I like to call them my “Ms. Ryde” moments, a play on Dr. Jekyll’s barbaric counterpart.
Now, I try very hard to keep “Ms. Ryde” stuffed deep inside. I chew gum to release my stress, I listen to soothing music, and I even employ a truly revolutionary tactic: I remain rational. I try to not take things personally on the road. And really, in the grand scheme of things, where will anger get you? There are worse things than being cut off, or even getting in an accident, although it doesn’t seem that way at the time. People lose their lives on the road everyday. Be grateful you are still sitting safely behind the wheel when you arrive home, and remember that everyone else is just trying to do the same.
With that said, I reached my boiling point today. I actually saw someone get out a newspaper and start to read at every red light. I can’t say I was surprised, but I wish I had asked for the funnies when I passed by. All joking aside, this is downright dangerous. I also watched one woman proceed to curl her eyelashes in her rearview mirror last week.
So, I feel as if I have a civic duty to remind my fellow drivers of what I like to call “common sense,” but what other people may call “Car Commandments.”
1. Thou shalt not text or talk on a cell phone whilst driving.
-I don’t even know why I have to say this, but put your cell phone down. Down. Every day, I see people miss red lights and nearly collide with other cars because they have a phone at their ear. They somehow believe that they have super powers because even though other people get into accidents, they seem to be immune. You are not special. If you’re not the President of the United States (and even if you are), that phone call is not that important.
2. Thou shalt always check thy mirrors at least twice before merging/changing lanes.
-They are called blind spots for a very good reason. Check, double check, and check again to make sure that no one is in yours. Believe me, I know you want to get out from behind that slow poke in the fast lane, but if you don’t glance at your mirrors before making your move, you may have a bigger problem on your hands.
3. Thou shalt merge like thou mean it.
-Every day, I merge onto a major highway. And every day, I see someone in the right lane who is going far too slow to let anyone merge in front or behind him/her. If you are this person, get in the left lane so people can safely get into the rat race. If you are the person merging, it’s best to speed up, if you can. Step on the gas to get in front of someone, don’t put on the brakes so that you can get hit from behind.
4. Thou shalt turn like thou mean it, too.
-Easily my biggest pet peeve on the road: when someone on the highway decides that they will make their turn and that they will make their turn at a speed that a tortoise in its dotage would think was too slow. Listen, I know you’re excited that you didn’t miss your turn, but if the people behind you have to slam on their brakes and say 10 Hail Mary’s before you take your exit, then we are going to have to throw down.
5. Thou shalt put on thy turn signal in a timely fashion.
-Again, I’m not even sure why I have to say this, but my daily commute dictates that it needs to be said. Turn on your blinker when you need to turn. Turn it off, if it doesn’t go off, when you turn. That’s it. But if you are one of those people who turn it on far too early or far too late, I have no time for you. And a question for those people who leave their blinker on halfway down the highway: doesn’t that annoy you? That metronome ticking? If it doesn’t annoy you, it probably annoys the person you are talking to on your cell phone, because why else would you leave that thing on? Pay. Attention. And see Commandment #1.
I completely agree that too many rules can dull the edges of our mind and turn us into sheep. However, the right rules can keep us safe. Be mindful of other drivers, and they will be mindful of you. In reality, if you give me that little “wave” that says, “Thanks for letting me into this giant parade we will be following for the next 20 miles!” or that says, “Hey, I’m really sorry for cutting you off for no reason, but I can see you are upset from your angry gestures in my rearview!” I will totally forgive you. Remember, karma waits at every red light.