My typical commute to work is 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic, accidents, construction and weather. This is nothing compared with other cities, namely Los Angeles, but it’s all relative.
I’ve made this commute from the Northtowns to the West Side for 16 years. In that time, I’ve seen my share of distracted drivers, and there are plenty of them. I’ve witnessed people talking on their cellphones, texting, eating, drinking, applying makeup, brushing their hair, jamming on their steering wheels and dashboards, reaching far into the passenger seat, or worse yet, the backseat trying to retrieve something they’ve dropped and engaging in total animated conversation with their passenger.
We all know this driver: Whichever way the head turns, the vehicle follows in the same direction. I have seen drivers traveling in the left lane doing well below the speed limit, causing a mile backup, and those who merge onto the highway and cut you off even though there’s plenty of room for them to fall in behind you. And lest I forget, reading. Yes, reading! I once pulled up next to someone who had a book opened up on the steering wheel. It’s enough to consider purchasing a HANS device that the NASCAR drivers wear for safety to reduce bodily injury upon impact.
I hate to admit it, but I’m not entirely exclusive to this group of drivers. The HANS device would be an appropriate purchase for me as I’ve been known to have a heavy foot and could quite possibly be categorized as a slightly aggressive driver. (I hope my insurance agent doesn’t read this.) But I’m here to tell you I’ve changed my ways.
One day I was leaving work and a woman went around me on my left, clipped my driver’s side mirror and sped away. From out of nowhere, it was like some raving lunatic switched places with me behind the wheel. The next thing I knew, I had jumped out of my lane and began pursuing the car to the next signal, all the while yelling at her to pull over. She completely ignored me – never giving me even a sideways glance.
On to the next signal we went, with me in hot pursuit. At this point, I decided to grab my phone and take a picture of her license plate before the light turned green. I took the picture and threw the phone down on the passenger seat next to me. Satisfied that I had secured “evidence,” I headed in the opposite direction toward home.
When I arrived, I excitedly told my husband about my eventful drive home. “You know what really burned me?” I said. “That she didn’t even stop. She just kept on going as if nothing happened. But no need to worry. I got her license plate number.”
Lo and behold, when I attempted to bring up the photo, a video began to play. I had accidentally hit record, and out came this voice yelling obscenities and carrying on like you wouldn’t believe. It was like I was listening to someone I didn’t even recognize. I embarrassingly fumbled to shut the frightening thing off, but it was too late.
My husband replied, “Geez, no wonder why the woman didn’t pull over. She was probably scared out of her wits.”
That video truly captured a civilized human being metamorphosed into an enraged person. My husband followed me out to the garage to survey the damage to the vehicle, and there was barely a scratch. The mirror was fine.
It was me who had become completely unhinged. As I looked into the mirror, it was obvious that no further inspection of the vehicle was necessary, but it became quite evident that a little introspection was. Now, whenever I feel myself getting angry behind the wheel, I recall that image to mind, take a few deep breaths and think to myself: Keep calm and drive on.