I live in a rural area with nary a freeway in sight. We traverse this valley via a two lane state highway that runs the length of it. That’s all you get: two lanes.
Our traffic woes run the gamut, but are not the same as large city traffic woes. Here, you might get stuck behind a cattle drive and simply be sitting at a standstill while the animals are herded by cowboys on horseback.
Upon returning to live in her hometown of Driggs after being away, a good friend here tells the story of rolling through town while driving behind a combine. But in front of the combine, and now leading the pack at the only stoplight in our valley, was this teenaged girl on horseback. Naturally, she was waiting for the light to turn green like everyone behind her. My friend’s inner dialogue started to address her choice to return at that moment (of course she still lives here and loves it).
And so it goes at 6,200 feet.
There are some similarities, though, with larger cities when it comes to drivers. Because, when the rubber meets the road, you will inevitably find an asshole.
Am I right?
When I was in my spry 20s, I used to make characterizations like, “Wow, drivers in [name of large metropolis] are terrible.”
With wisdom comes truth. I now understand that drivers are terrible everywhere. As my husband likes to say, “Don’t be an individual on the road.” But people can’t help it. They get behind the wheel and suddenly they’re entitled to put their own spin on the rules of the road.
Posted speed limit: 55mph. “Oh, then that means I can go 60 and tailgate anyone that doesn’t seem to want to go that fast, which then makes it okay for me to pass on a double yellow line,” thinks random driver number 6,271, who lives in [insert any place in the world here].
As I drove from Victor to Driggs a couple of weeks ago, the vehicle in front of me refused to drive at a consistent speed. 48 52, 47, 45, 50 – up and down. Oncoming traffic was heavy, and there wouldn’t be an opportunity to pass for some time.
My frustration grew. Here’s the thing: I want to go the speed limit. I don’t want to go 52. I don’t want to go 60. I want to drive 55, as is posted, for my safety and the safety of others. But this jackass wouldn’t even top out at 55. He drove just shy of it the whole time, slowing down, then speeding up, but never surpassing 53mph.
After muttering the word motherfucker many times over, I caught sight of the passenger’s head. The hair was white. Ah ha! I thought, this driver is not just a motherfucker, he is an elderly motherfucker. Then I felt guilty for hating on an elderly person. Then I thought, Wait, if the driver is too old to operate a car properly… Then I got angry again and vowed that I would relinquish my license at the proper time. Like, prior to the onset of blindness or dementia.
While I lamented the burden of aging for all of us, I noticed an opening to pass. And as I drove by the erratic motorist, I took a look.
He was not elderly.
He was middle-aged.
He was on the phone.
And that is when a reflex I could not control took hold of my right arm. Passing him on the left, I extended my middle finger as far as it could go – and realized then that this was a bit of a gross overreaction.
You see, I don’t really let fly with the bird while driving. A) I like to try and believe that I am above that kind of thing and B) many residents of both Idaho and Wyoming have concealed carry permits. I try not to elicit any kind of strong reaction from someone that might be packin’ heat.
While I got back to the business of steering my vehicle, I had honest regret about the gesture. It is important to note that the jackass with the phone didn’t even notice my finger. It did not change his behavior. In my rearview as I sped away from him (going 55, of course), he continued to engage on his device.
I got angry while operating an SUV that weighs around 4,000 lbs. This anger led me to take one hand off the wheel. My eyes were not on the road while I passed – I was too busy making a point. All this was happening as I hurtled through space in a large metal conveyance at 55mph.
His bad behavior begat my bad behavior, and on, and on…
Rising above the fray and breaking a negative pattern is always a triumph.
A good place to start might be behind the wheel.