My Micro-Road Rage by
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Prompted By Road Rage

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Not me but could be

When I think of road rage, I picture my father leaning on the horn and swearing at drivers who were too slow or who cut him off. And my mild-mannered husband, who expresses his rage more subtly by creeping up too close for my comfort to the rear bumper of drivers who exhibit the same behaviors. Perhaps that’s more of a guy thing, because my version of road rage is more like a slow boil I feel most days when I’m behind the wheel. I suspect that, like many women, my road rage is a micro one, more directed to my gut than to another driver.

September is National Courtesy Month, so I am making an extra effort to stay calm and be a polite driver. Just wish others would do the same.

I have lived in the pretty urban suburb of Evanston, Illinois, home to Northwestern University, for 45 years. In that time, navigating the streets has become increasingly like an obstacle course. In addition to increasing traffic brought on by adding so many high rises to the area, bikes are a big thing here. We have tons of bike lanes, which is a good thing except for the danger of needing to make a right turn just where the bike lane seems to vanish. I suspect the biker should not speed through those intersections, but that’s usually what happens. I’ve learned to be careful but that’s not what drives me to feel angry and stressed behind the wheel.

Rather, it’s the bikers who travel with me on roads with no bike lanes. Two bikes traveling side-by-side so their riders can chat on a two-lane street means I have to travel fifteen miles per hour until I find a safe place to pass them. Of course, because they do not obey stop signs and traffic signals, these bikers continue to overtake me, and we are once again playing cat and mouse. I have never yelled at them or honked my horn, but my internal rage grows. I’m sure my father would have (his choice of words) “let them have it.”

It’s not only bikers who inspire my micro-rage. Delivery trucks, cabs, ubers, lyfts, and inconsiderate folks picking up friends block side streets so I can’t pass. Apparently, if their flashers are on, that’s fine. What is particularly annoying is that generally there is a spot to pull over somewhere on the block, but it may mean someone has to walk a few houses to deliver the goods or pick up the rider. Today, I had to back out of such a street and take an alternate route just to get to the drug store. When I returned ten minutes later, the same flashing car was still there, minus the delivery truck. At least I could get by and shoot him a dirty look, which I’m sure he didn’t see.

Don’t get me started on road construction season, which starts in the Spring and ends when the snow starts to fall. I’m a never-late person, so I leave a good five minutes before when my GPS tells me to go. This summer, so many of my usual routes are reduced in places to one lane, with a flag person deciding when I should get a turn. As I wait, I can feel that anger churning in my gut. Surely, the oncoming lane of traffic is getting much more time than mine. I may even hit the steering wheel with my hand or swear to myself. Never out loud like my father. Never showing my frustration if I have a grandkid in the car.

What I think is my passive-aggressive style of road rage does not discriminate. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I almost flipped off (subtly, I would argue) a police officer. In my opinion, it was well deserved. An unmarked car zoomed onto the highway, almost hitting my side of the car while simultaneously turning on its flashing light. I put my hand up on my window, part reflex and part to show him how close he came. He proceeded to weave in and out of lanes until he pulled over a car that was apparently speeding. Maybe the driver of that car was doing something worse, but car chases often lead to terrible accidents. This one could have, so I felt entitled to what I still contend was a mild expression of my fear and rage.

Here’s another micro-rage situation that makes me an angry driver on a daily basis. This is a side street near my house that I use several times a day. Notice how trucks and a dumpster are parked on both sides of the street. This means I generally have to pull over to the curb to allow vehicles who turn onto the street to get by.

Because I am aware of the situation, I drive down the street cautiously, thus being the one who has to make room for the other car to pass. This has been going on for two years since there was a fire in the corner house. Whoever bought the house (probably a flipper) feels entitled to use this street as a personal parking lot.

The fact is, there are too many cars on our roads and most areas are badly in need of infrastructure projects to remedy traffic congestion. Ironically, September is National Courtesy Month, so I am making an extra effort to stay calm and be a polite driver. Just wish others would do the same.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. I hear you, Laurie! I just had to renew my driver’s license and this time I had to take the written test. I was so nervous I crammed the night before…and I aced it! (Is that what they call “humble bragging”?) And when I told the guy behind the counter my husband wouldn’t believe me, he gave me a little slip saying “No questions missed” as proof. But my point is that the rules of the road are fresh in my mind, and you do absolutely everything right when it comes to dealing with bicyclists. So many of them have a holier-than-thou attitude which actually provokes road rage. It’s a real problem here in L.A. along Pacific Coast Highway, and in the many canyons. Common courtesy seems to be in short supply these days, and not just on the road. Thanks for the reminder that September is National Courtesy Month…I’ll try to keep my cool.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Bravo, Barbara, on your 100% for the written test. My greatest fear is having to retake the road test. I’ll probably not go over 20 miles per hour and pray I don’t get a tester who makes me back up between two cones. But I’m a pretty good parallel parker, so that should count for something, right? I think bikers should also be licensed with ID on their bikes. Some of my best friends bike and share the roads carefully, but most of the younger ones (unfair generalization) do not obey any of those rules on your test. Now that I’ve finished my little rant, I’ll keep cool and courteous when I venture out today.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your situation sounds oh, so familiar, Laurie. I think what you’ve described is true of most cities. It certainly describes Newton, which has painted in some bike lanes where a second driving lane used to be, but you really have to look out and make sure you aren’t turning right as someone is biking past you. Congestion is getting worse everywhere. People try to zip by, or squeeze you out. It is hard to keep your cool.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Betsy, driving in your area is even harder. So many of the streets are narrow and it is challenging to “circle the square” in Cambridge and end up where you want to be. I won’t drive there and have to be GPS navigator while my husband attempts not to get lost. Even my daughter-in-law, who has an excellent sense of direction, made a wrong exit on our most recent visit and we meandered down curving streets for some time trying to find our way. Our cities were not designed to accommodate the kind of traffic we have now.

  3. I hear ya Laurie. During my time in Chicagoland I had regular occasion to drive to and through Evanston. Never liked it for precisely the reasons you cite. But they’re everywhere. The added modern day bugaboo is smart phones and ear plugs in use by cyclists and pedestrians, making them totally oblivious.
    Had to chuckle at your construction story. I recall the competing “saws”: each proclaimed that there were just two seasons in Chicago. One version was “winter and August” but the more accurate one was “winter and construction”. Too true.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Yes, Tom, I had forgotten to mention the plugged in bikers and Northwestern student pedestrians. Actually, quite dangerous to bike at dusk or night in a black jacket wearing headphones with no reflectors. I have narrowly missed a few of these people and they always shoot me a dirty look. When were you in my neck of the woods?

  4. Suzy says:

    Everything you describe is so true here in Sacramento too. I especially related to the flag person who tells you when you can go because there is only one lane, and it feels like the traffic going the other way is getting much more time. I love the way you write! And I like the term micro-road-rage. Thanks for this great story!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Suzy. I thought I was the only one who was certain I was being cheated of my fair share of time by those flaggers. They probably use some kind of timer. But maybe next time, I will use mine and then pull over and time the interaction to be sure. Of course, then what would I do? Probably just seeth more and drive home.

  5. Marian says:

    I hope one day courtesy pays, Laurie. Your description of your passive-aggressive reaction really resonates with me. A similar pet peeve to yours is SUVs so large parked on the street that you take your life in your hands inching out of your driveway until you can see your way clear.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Oh yes, Marian. That’s another pet peeve of mine. There was a family at my preschool that drove a Hummer and parked it across from the school to drop off their child (probably it was their nanny). It blocked vehicles from coming down that side of the street and made it really hard for folks to exit their driveways. I wanted to expel the family but their kid was darling and badly in need of preschool nurturing.

  6. I am concerned, Laurie, with the micro detail of your pet traffic peeves. I strongly suggest you seek counseling or… better yet — get that passive aggressive urge out of your gut and — killllllllllll! They ALL deserve to die!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      LOL! I’m married to a shrink, so I know very well how passive aggressive I can be. Better to share this on Retrospect than key someone’s car or scream at a stranger. You never know what folks will do these days.

  7. Can’t help but wonder if road rage and other random acts of violence will lessen after the Orange Pustule has been ousted from office. As is so often the case today, I have no way of knowing.

  8. Come to New York Laurie where the cabbies stop whenever and where-ever they please!

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