RAGE, ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Experts claim we need to keep our rage in check by playing soothing music while driving on crowded freeways. I tried it with country western music but it didn’t seem to work for me. Johnny Cash can drive you crazy.

Road rage has increased big time in recent years. My first experience with it occurred on an L.A. freeway in about 1956 when I was attempting to avoid a large metal box in my lane by moving over to the next one. An angry motorist would not let me in. He was screaming at me and offering a signal that is not to be found in the motor vehicle handbook. To my surprise he was wearing a clerical collar. I figured it was a costume, given it was near the Halloween season. After becoming a minister I met several colleagues who admitted they too used that signal, along with me.

Statistics report that most angry motorists are men in their thirties and that’s about the age I was when I used the middle digit to make a point. What if cars owned by young adults have to listen only to relaxing music?

I’ve wondered if the motor vehicle department might offer courses for road-rage motorists who are addicted to being explosive on the highways. If the angry attitude is increasing why not try to come up with ideas on how to calm down such hotheads?

Of course I would tend to rely upon one-on-one bonding if at all possible. I have alluded to road rage scenarios in my essays in the past but I think the theme needs to be lifted up again now that I have three grandchildren who are beginning to drive.

I commuted for a time in San Diego by taking interstate-five in the early mornings. The six lanes were jam-packed with motorists driving 95 miles per hour and slowing down to 10 miles per hour several times at 5 mph and back to 95 with bikers weaving in and out. I recall on my freeways years ago most drivers were doing 80 miles per hour so I slowed down, out of revenge I guess. I got several nasty signals.

You readers may not want to bond with motorists as I did that morning. I followed the last angry flasher until he left the freeway and drove to a Starbucks store. I walked in behind him and stood in a long line. I asked where he lived and where he was born and raised. He talked about his town and his grandma for about ten minutes. I didn’t mention how he had greeted me just before our little sweet talk. If I had not met him in that store I would have hated him for about five or ten minutes.

Now, when I have mean motorists who give me that naughty symbol, I smile at them and wave vigorously as if I know them. They quickly go from being mean to nice because they assume I may be their neighbor or one of their bosses at work. A few of them will go ahead and wave at me apologetically with happy fingers.

We have experienced animosity on our highways for decades but now it seems we are living with anger in our country like never before. My hunch is, given our attitudes on politics, we will have to risk bonding with our neighbors, coworkers and church members. We have stayed away from them for too long. We can try meeting in groups to air our opinions but bonding one-on-one will likely be more effective.

Running deep with those who are at odds with us is much more difficult than bonding with strangers. But what if we feel our country is going to hell in a hand basket and we hold back from what we truly feel? And what if we are not as right about the issues as we think?

Groucho Marks had an interesting and final word on politics. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marks, recalled on the occasion of his death, August 19, 1977.

David Brooks, the columnist for the NY Times, may appreciate Groucho’s death bed musings when he contends we are under a siege mentality in our culture. Brooks believes “…we’re in a traditional moment and the very foundations of society are now open to question.” He admits there is no easy solution to overcome the siege.

Ah, but why not risk drawing close to our rivals and going deep enough that we may discover we are the one diagnosing things incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies? And here’s hoping it will not be our final words.

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