Are you a petty and vindictive driver? I sure am.
I was cruising over Bond Street in central Auckland on Friday morning. My job starts at 6 so it was dark.
Bond Street is a dipper. Steep down from Kingsland and up the other side to Great North Road. It's hard to keep to the speed limit.
Gravity alone gets you over 50. I was going 62. Deserved a ticket for that. But 12k over wasn't fast enough for the guy following me. He was right up my behind.
Blasting his bright lights in my rearview. So I did what any self-respecting kiwi male would do. I slowed right down just to annoy him.
He responded by driving even closer.
Now I was fired up. At the top of Bond St both lanes turn right. He pulled up beside me. It was pole position at Bathhurst. I checked out my opponent. BMW X1.
An angry man in his 40s at the wheel, business shirt, no tie. Looked like he'd played a bit of rugger in his time but was starting to blow out. I flashed him a sarcastic smile.
He responded with a shake of the head. He was determined to get ahead of me. I wasn't going to let that happen. When the lights changed I hit the inside lane hard and by the time we merged I was still in front.
Time to turn the screws on this jerk. I slowed right down. Well below the speed limit. He counters by flicking his headlights on full beam.
I hit back by letting a bus in long before the driver was even indicating. Stopped right in the middle of the road. If 62 wasn't fast enough for you on Bond St. Try zero on Great North you %!.
Then my crowning glory. I slowed right down for some guys in lycra who were riding well to the left. Guys who didn't need to be slowed down for. This allowed me to sneak through on the yellow at the corner of Ponsonby Rd. Leaving him stuck at the red. Game set and match.
I sure showed that person I'll never see again what's what. But the rush didn't last.
Feelings of victory were replaced with emptiness and shame. I'd lost my cool and descended into madness. Over what? One slight driving indiscretion from a stranger? I'd gone psycho. Is this really the best way to spend a morning drive? I could have relaxed.
Let the slight tailgating go through to the keeper. Spent a pleasant time with my tunes and air conditioning. Instead, I choose a stressful, morning ruining, battle to the death.
Neuroscientist Sam Harris put it best in his Making Sense Podcast #104
"Road rage is impossible if you are mindful of the shortness of life. If you're aware you're going to die and so are they. That one day you're both going to lose everyone you love and you don't know when."
That person who you will never meet. Whose hopes and sorrows you know nothing about but if you could know you would recognise are impressively similar to your own. He's just driving. You've got this next interaction with another human being to make this world a marginally better place. So relax."
Maybe my tailgater was in a hurry to see his injured wife in the hospital. Even if he was just a bad driver do 5 additional bits of bad driving by me make it right? No. So here's an open letter to the man.
Dear Mr Tailgate, Hope this finds you well. I forgive you for riding me down Bond. I wish you all the best in your life. I wish you and your family health and happiness. Go well, my friend. But if you ever get up my backside like that again, I swear to God I'll slam on the brakes, and teach you a lesson you won't forget! Just kidding. We're all good. Love Matt
There are a lot of bad drivers out there. They make us mad. We want to teach them a lesson. We feel like we need to educate. Generally, I do this by doing stupid things myself.
Losing my cool. Stressing out. All the while death, illness, sorrow and sickness are just around the corner for all of us. When we have the brief opportunity to be contented we should probably take it. Might as well enjoy the relatively good moments while we can.
Our commutes can be pleasant and relaxed or petty and vindictive. It's our choice. Even when someone's right up your bumper.