Friday, March 26, 2010

Road Rage and Retributive Justice

Road Rage: a symptom of our times. Who hasn't at one time or another been subject to road rage, whether as a victim or perpretrator? And what is there in the human condition that sometimes makes us raging monsters when behind the wheel of a powerful vehicle? I read recently of a man who was sentenced to life in prison, after running over three people and killing a fourth.
And who hasn't had the experience of being in front of a driver madly expressing his frustration with our supposed dawdling along, when in fact we're unable to go any faster than the vehicle or vehicles in front of us? For whatever reason I decided long ago that it's better to arrive somewhere fifteen minutes late than to risk life and limb to get there immediately. A type B driver gets there in almost the same time, and with his blood pressure down to life-enhancing levels. I've tried to convey this philosophy to anyone would listen. After all, what're a few minutes in the scope of eternity? Better to chill out and arrive alive.
And as for taking out revenge or “getting even” with someone behind the wheel of another vehicle, I can hardly think of a better way to court disaster. Better to take things philosophically and pull over at the first opportunity, letting that steroid- or coke-enraged madman on your tail go on to this own individual destination–or destiny. Let the laws of karma deal with the situation. Sometimes they work quicker than we'd think.
A number of years ago I was driving my old ‘74 Peugeot north out of Key West to visit some friends up the Keys. That afternoon there was one of the famous toad-strangling thunderstorms that the Keys are famous for. The visibility ahead was maybe 60 feet, in between sweeps of the wiper blades. I slowed down to what I thought was a reasonable 45 miles per hour. Suddenly in the rear view mirror I see a huge pickup truck, honking its horn and flashing its lights. I’m thinking I can’t even see the shoulder to pull over, and this guy’s following so close I don’t even dare slow down to try to pull over or he’ll run right into me.
Soon the road opened up to two lanes, and as the truck passed, the driver gave me a traditional one-fingered salute. I’m thinking that guy must be out of his mind. There’s an inch of water on the road, and even worse, he’s towing a huge utility trailer full of stuff. And he’s doing well over 60.
A few minutes later the rain began to abate, and I noticed what looked like a pair of lights in the mangroves ahead off to the right. Sure enough, it was Hurry Harry: his rig had hydroplaned on the watery highway. He’d lost control, the trailer had jack-knifed, and the whole rig spun backwards into the brackish swamp, with the truck facing the road and the trailer at a very odd 90-plus degree angle off to the side.
I gave the fellow a tip o’ the hat as I drove by. And oh yeah, I called the highway patrol when I got where I was going. Told them they’d need a wrecker to pull the guy out.