You Need to Calm Down by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Road Rage

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Partial view of the front of my synagogue, B’nai Israel, a place of sanctuary

At first I couldn’t think of any experience that would rise to the level of road rage. Annoyance with another driver who did something stupid, sure. Maybe a little cursing under my breath, or an occasional blast on my rather wimpy horn. But nothing that I would really call rage. I joked that I was going to go drive around and try to provoke someone, just to get a story. People said ha ha ha . . . no, don’t do that, it’s dangerous!

Then I remembered a scary situation where someone else’s rage actually did cause me to fear for my safety.

I have no idea at this point what I did that made the middle-aged guy in the SUV so mad. It probably wasn’t anything intentional — although I do have a temper at times, so it might have been. Whatever it was, it really pissed him off. I suddenly noticed him in my rear-view mirror, behind me and following much too closely. If I sped up, he sped up too. When I turned a corner, he was right there with me. I was fairly close to home, but I realized that I shouldn’t go home for two reasons. First, I didn’t want him to know where I lived. Second, my garage is not attached to my house, so if he wanted to hurt me, he could get me as I walked from the garage to the back door. I started driving around aimlessly, hoping he would get tired of following me, but he didn’t. This must have been before cell phones, otherwise I would have called 911, or at least called my husband, but I didn’t have those options. Finally I decided to take refuge at my synagogue, because I knew there would be people there and presumably he wouldn’t do anything stupid in front of witnesses.

I zoomed into the synagogue parking lot, which is an L shape, partly on the side of the building and partly behind it. I made a quick right turn into the behind part, parked as close as I could to the back entrance, jumped out of the car and ran inside without turning around to see if he was there. (This is a picture taken from the parking lot. The Hebrew letters, which are also bike racks, spell Shalom. As you can see, you have to cross a fairly large area to get to the door.)

I dashed into the foyer, through another doorway and into the administrative offices. Bernie Marks, an eighty-something-year-old Holocaust survivor, was sitting at the reception desk. He was my height and about my weight, probably not a match for the SUV tough guy. But still, a witness. I said, “Bernie, there’s a man chasing me!” He went to the window and said, “I don’t see anybody coming, but just wait here for a while until he goes away.” I sat with Bernie for about five minutes. Then we rounded up a couple of other people and walked out to the parking lot. There was nobody there. I quickly drove home (only a block away), hid my car in the garage in case the guy was still in the neighborhood, and went into the house.

And that was the end of that. But afterwards I was more cognizant of the impression I might be making on other drivers, no matter how annoying they were. At least for a while.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Quite a scary story, Suzy. I guess you will never know what his intention was. I’m impressed by how cool and smart you were in what must have been a high stress situation.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    So scary, Suzy. You never know who is out there, or what anyone’s intentions might be. You were smart to find safe shelter before heading home. Glad this story turned out well.

  3. Suzy, you write “I have no idea at this point what I did that made the middle-aged guy in the SUV so mad . . . ” Of course not. Road rage is irrational by definition; it’s all about and only about the “rager” not the ragee. Glad you were able to deal with the situation so adeptly.

  4. Marian says:

    There is safety in numbers, Suzy, and in your case in synagogues. I’m like you in that I’d wonder what I did to trigger such a situation.

  5. Suzy, I sometimes think about how each of us in our own little bubble when we’re driving. We might just be moseying along, listening to music or an audio book and in no particular hurry, and the person in the car behind us could be late for an important appointment, amped up on speed, or simply in a hurry and think we’re intentionally impeding his or her progress. It’s scary to think of all the possibilities around us each time we get behind the wheel. But drive we must, and it’s important to keep our wits about us when we sense danger. You were so smart to keep going! Instead of acting like one of those people in a scary movie who do exactly what WE know they shouldn’t do…like .heading down that street that’s clearly marked “DEAD END” or walking into that empty, dark house. So glad your story had a happy ending: and that was the end of that!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    A scary story, Suzy, and well told. Your strategy was also brilliant, both in terms of what you did do — drive to the synagogue — and didn’t do — drive home.

    Forget any negative views I may have expressed in the past about formalized religion. I may just join a synagogue after all. Between that and my AAA card, I should be safe on the road.

  7. There’s something very soothing about your synagogue visit. It’s not often we get to think of a church or synagogue as a sanctuary, unless we are seeking amnesty, a very different story indeed. My observation has been that middle-aged (usually white) guys in SUVs have bought the big vehicles in a futile effort to soothe the deep rage they harbor at not being quite so unassailable in their position at the top of the pecking order. Them days are over, Bubba!

    • Suzy says:

      I disagree about not thinking of it as a sanctuary. In the awful days after the 2016 election, and in the even worse (for me) days after my mother’s death, the synagogue was definitely a sanctuary for me. And I”m not a religous person at all!

  8. Oh dear, scary indeed. I don’t know if I would have had the wisdom not to drive home.
    Taking refuge in the synagogue was a smart move, perhaps it scared him away because he knew a HIgher Power was watching!

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