Monday, 13 August 2012

Driving, ranting, rah rah rah

My life is turning into one giant stream of “The closer you get, the slower I go”.

Well, my driving life, anyway.

It seems that for the past month, every time I get out on the road there’s some loon sitting as close as possible to the rear end of my car, hovering menacingly in an attempt to make me either exceed the speed limit or move out of their way. It doesn’t matter whether I’m crawling along in peak hour traffic, cruising in regular, speed-limit abiding traffic, or the only other car on the road (and also in the left lane with a perfectly free middle lane on my right). There they are, so close I can barely see their headlights in the rear vision mirror.

Before I continue my rant, let me get a few things straight. I’m not a slow driver. I am also not a fast driver, because I am a rule-abider who likes to do the speed limit. Call me what you will, but know that  I also do not like going stupidly slow because the person in the car in front of me is deciding to take a leisurely drive at 40kph in a 110kph zone in a place where I cannot overtake. I experience the frustration often, yet because I am a polite person who tries her darndest to be a nice person also, I try to be patient.

I mean, I yell and scream and rant at the slowpoke, but in the confines of my car where the person cannot hear me. Clearly. I’m patient and polite, yes, but rude and mean I am not.

Unlike some of the “people” I have encountered in the past month.

I’ll give you an example. A fortnight ago I was on my way to work. It was very early on a Sunday morning, I was in a surprisingly good mood, and there was barely any traffic. I’ll still never understand how there can still be a small amount of traffic at 5 on a Sunday morning, but, hey, it’s Sydney, whatchagonnado.

So I was cruising along, singing along to my tunes loudly and happily, in the middle lane due to a few slowish cars and trucks in the left lane. I was doing the speed limit, which was nice and speedy, and steadily passing the cars beside me, who were doing about 20kph under the speed limit. All was well in my world. Which is pretty awesome work, considering the whole Sunday-morning-workiness.

What can I say, it’s a rare talent.

And then a white ute zips up behind me, sitting so close to my car that I’m amazed the driver wasn’t actually in my backseat. Come to think of it, he was so close he could probably hear my singing. Which could explain his actions...though I doubt it does.

I was very calm, which is unlike me, but since I was steadily passing the cars to my left I was happy to keep on trucking and move over to the left once I was clear of cars to crash into. Cos I’m polite and stuff. Unfortunately, Whitey McUte was not so calm, nor so polite. After a few moments brownnosing my car, he started to flash his lights at me. My first thought was “Is this dude a policeman?”, but it was clear that he was just an impatient douche. But since I was still passing the slower cars, and still doing the exact speed limit, I continued upon my merry way.

Stupidhead McUte did not like this, no sirree. He continued to flash his lights at me, and when I was still unresponsive he proceeded to put his lights on high beam and let them blind me in the rear vision mirror.

I mean, that’s just rude. And besides that, where was I going to go? There were only two lanes in our direction, and a pile of slow cars beside me. And there was no way on Earth I was going to speed up just for him, since that particular stretch of the motorway is notorious for random police speed camera dude thingys. So, stubborn thing that I am, I tapped the brake pedal lightly, just to let him know that I was not going to be bullied. I know I was probably making things just that teeny bit worse for myself, but “The closer you get, the slower I go” was looping through my brain.

The high-beam-brownnosing combo continued until I passed the slow cars, at which point Douchecanoe McUte zoomed over into the teensy tiny gap in front of the left car before I even had a chance to check my blind spot and move over myself. He slammed his hand down on his horn, drove as close to the left side of my car as was possible without hitting me, and then zoomed in front of me, back into my lane and off down the motorway.

Ironically, my exit was about 1km up the road, and by the time I turned off Arsehole McUte was only about 100m in front of me, performing the same routine on another poor bugger. Nice to see his bullying of me got him so much further along in his journey.

But this is my problem – it’s bullying, clear and simple. I’m not sure what happened to patience, or at least the politeness to keep your rage to yourself whilst in the car. I mean, rant to the steering wheel all you want, I’m cool with that. I partake in it often myself. It serves a dual purpose of expressing your feelings whilst not harming others. But  I’m not sure what purpose these people think it serves when they share their frustrations with others.

There’s selfishness, and then there’s bullying. Selfishness is putting yourself above others, which I can cope with, but bullying is putting others down, which is cruel. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, be it at school or work or even in your own families or peer groups. Like Bart’s elephant in The Simpsons, “Some of them act badly because they've had a hard life, or have been mistreated...(but) some of them are just jerks”.

I’m tired of having to put up with jerks on the road. I’ve got enough bullies to cope with in regular life, for heaven’s sake! This story is only the most full-on of a dozen or more stories of the same kind of thing that has happened to me on the roads in the past month. And every time it happens, my reaction is the same.

I will not be bullied. Honk, flash, brownnose my car all you want. Your middle finger cannot harm me. My foot will find its way to the brake pedal, and depress it ever so slightly. The closer you get, the slower I go.

I just wish that I could feel pride after I’ve stood up to these bullies. I mean, it’s only a tiny thing, inconsequential in the grand scheme of life. I shouldn’t let them get to me. I shouldn’t let them shake my confidence, or ruin my mood, or leave me shaking with anxiety and fear instead of adrenaline and pride.

But I do. I always have. It doesn’t matter how truthful a bully is or isn’t, or how strong I am when I stand up to their venom and hate. It doesn’t make me feel good – it’s a better feeling than just lying down and taking it, but it’s still not a positive sensation. I can’t help but feel that standing up for myself just makes me as mean as them, and that even if it’s worth being mean that it doesn’t make a difference to the bully or to the way they treat myself and others.

I know the secret to coping is in my reactions, and the way I internalise such matters. And I’m working on it. But for the time being, while I’m still average and thin-skinned, it stings a little.

It’s true, really. The closer they get...the slower I go.

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