October 04, 2007

why I don't flip people off in my truck anymore

Several years ago I was commuting from Oakland to San Jose for a job. That was about a 90 or so mile commute. And there were several places where you left one highway when it merged with another highway. Well, this particular incident took place at such a merging.

When two highways merge, one lane on each highway is the focal point. Each of those lanes on the different highways actually merge, and the vehicles in those two lanes have to act accordingly. Well, the lane I was in disappeared into the adjoining lane. There was a yellow pickup in the other lane. HE had plenty of room in front of him and he could have just driven along, no problem. But I needed to either speed up or slow down to merge with him. Well, duh. I sped up to pull in front of him. There were cars behind him so it made sense for me to speed up.

Well, he sped up too. The old "uh uh, you're not pulling in front of me" trip. I sped up, he sped up. Blah blah. I got mad, shot him the finger and pulled in front of him. I make my way over towards the left and forget about it. Maybe 30 seconds later I see this yellow pickup in my rear view mirror. The guy has both hands on the steering wheel, at 10 and 2, and he's leaning forward hunched over the steering wheel, peering intently ahead. At this point, the traffic from merging had cleared out a little bit. We're going maybe 75mph or so.

So this yellow pickup pulls in front of me, in the far left lane, and then slams on the brakes, tires smoking, taking us down to about 35. I pull over one lane to the right and pass him. A few seconds later he does the same exact thing. He did that like 3 times.

At some point, I'm in the far left lane, he's one lane over, and he's gesturing that he wants both of us to pull off at the next exit. He keeps gesturing to pull off the highway. I look at him like he's crazy. I wind up picking up my cell phone and looking at it like I'm dialing, then holding it up to my ear. He took that as his que to cease acting like a dick and he peeled off to the right and I never saw him again.

Within a few months of that I had another incident, not nearly so hair-raising, but it still gave me pause to think. This time, I was driving down University Ave, in Berkeley. Heading I guess it was west, away from down town. University Ave is a really busy street. It's one of several "main drags" in Berkeley.

This particular day they were doing construction. Two lanes were normal, but further down there were orange cones forcing a merge into 1 lane. I was trying to get into this other lane, and there was this guy in a white delivery truck in the lane over. I kept trying to jump in front of him, and he kept cutting me off. I got mad again, shot him the finger just as I pulled in front of him. So we're driving down the street, about 10 mph. And I look in my rear view and the driver of this delivery truck has this look of pure anger on his face. He has his left hand out his window, shooting me the finger back, directly into my side mirror. His left hand is a fist with the middle finger sticking up, and his fist is shaking in rage.

I've been into buddhism and all that eastern stuff since the late 80's. A big part of that is compassion. After that second incident I completely swore off flipping people off while driving.

What brought this stuff to mind is something that happened recently, in town here. I'm a regular at a local coffee shop. You park on the street and it's pull in at a diagonal sort of parking. There's a lot of really big trucks in town so it's hard to see into the street. There's probably been a thousand times when I started to pull out, I saw there was a car coming and stepped on the brakes. The car would go around. No problem. Twice now, this old gray haired couple in a white Caddy has just LAID on the horn when I had already stepped on the brakes. Not just a little "toot", but a full blast "hooooooonnnnKk!"

It's always the woman driving. And I don't mean that to sound sexist. Each time she's done that I've muttered to myself "crazy bitch." It's been a major struggle for me to not give them the finger.


Tamara Miles said...

Yay! This time, the comment box was here. I didn't do anything different, so who knows? Have you visited by blogger page yet?

Tamara Miles said...

um, that should be "my" blogger page, not "by" ... sorry. My new rather long and fake fingernails make it difficult to type without error.