Three years ago I had an pleasant encounter with a friendly motorcyclist. At a busy intersection on the campus of Texas State University, I gave him the right-of-way. He raised a thumbs-up while giving me a thank-you nod. I followed him in the rainy, congested morning rush hour traffic, making sure to keep a safe distance between us. Such cordial driving. Such respect for each other. Such a wonderful morning.
Such an outright lie.
* * *
Three years ago I had a rotten encounter with a jerk (okay, he was a motorcyclist). I didn’t give him the right-of-way, because I couldn’t—he was driving by his own rules. He appeared unexpectedly, having taken the bicycle lane to avoid waiting in line like everyone else. As I took my turn to proceed into the intersection, he ran the stop sign and, without looking, cut directly in front of me.
The instant had arrived—that immeasurable fragment of time when a mood can turn a one-eighty with no warning whatsoever. Your mind is sailing under blue skies on an ocean calm. How is it possible that not a single tremor was felt before the tsunami unleashed itself right before your very eyes?
This is wrong. This is very wrong. And I’m supposed to abide by the laws of your fee will? I’m supposed to just sit back and accept your crass and conceited misconduct? My hand hovered over the horn. If I don’t honk at him, he’ll go about his autonomous way, feeling almighty and exclusively untouchable. If I do honk at him, I risk the chance he might want to defend his own wrongful actions no matter the repercussions. But wrongful hits me hard, and I can’t stop myself from wanting to call him out. This, however, is not my common territory. I’m a patient and forgiving guy. I’ve never been in a fight. I don’t prefer agitated situations. But in this instant, he exudes an attitude that I just can’t let continue. I will always give someone the benefit of the doubt, but I doubt this guy can benefit from anything except for someone to confront him.
I lay into my horn with a heavy hand that doesn’t give up for a good five seconds. I give a momentary pause before I hit it again. As I’m hoping the sound waves will shatter his helmet, this is the precise moment when the tsunami hits. He takes both hands off the handle bars, raises them in the air, and proceeds to emphatically flip me off with a double-bird.
How quickly I wanted to floor the accelerator and stamp him into the pavement. He blatantly runs a stop sign, disrespecting everyone, then expletively defends his actions. Sure, I pushed him to that point, but still, all that he is doing is wrong.
There were no more bike lanes for him to cheat the system. We were in a single-file line of stop-and-go traffic comprised of college students. Judging by his backpack, he was probably one as well.
My daughter—who I was taking to class—was sitting next to me. As my eyes were intently burning through the windshield, I’m sure she was wondering if this moment were marking the beginning of irreversible insanity. Ladies & Gentlemen, This is my dad about to lose his mind. He’s not happy with the motorcyclist. Whatever craziness happens next, I’ll be sure to pass this on to my grandchildren—a story for the ages…”Grandchildren, gather ‘round and I shall tell you the story of my father, about the time his mind went bat-shit rabid…”
Here’s the part of the story that truly spotlights one of the more colorful and intellectual conversations I’ve ever had. (Okay, so maybe not quite a conversation, but more like an exchange.) My horn wasn’t doing a good enough job as my spokesman, so I rolled my window down, craned my neck out and, completely oblivious to the incoming rain, yelled, “Are you serious!!?….ARE YOU &#@%!ing SERIOUS!!?”
My fervid state of agitation had become embalmed in a hoard of analogies. My mouth had become the proverbial raging bull. My temper was tornadic. I was a heat-seeking missile, or perhaps more accurately put: a fully loaded F-16 Fighter equipped with nothing more than a load of hostile F-bombs. Like an emergency siren, my voice had no restraint with its harsh emissions. My entire &#@%!!ing projection was aimed at annihilating the &#@%!ing enemy. My concern of self-dignity was as non-existent as a beggar heckling for money on a crowded city sidewalk. And amongst the sea of students walking to class, they were the least of my concerns as my bombs rained down upon these civilians as well.
I can’t stand being part of a public scene—being that person who becomes the target for anyone’s ridicule. That person who becomes known as “that person”. And there I was…that person. But my consensus was: Oh, well, guess I’d better finish what I started.
I told my daughter to roll down her window. “But it’s raining,” she said.
I gave her the look: ROLL…DOWN…THE…WINDOW. There was no hesitation. She rolled it down.
The motorcyclist had moved his position to the far right, as he was sizing up the narrow gap between the line of cars and the curb. I moved my car over to the left to ride the broken lane line, and then inched forward so that he was in full earshot near the front right corner of my car.
“HEY, YOU &#@%!ING idiot!! YOU’RE A COMPLETE &#@%! GET OFF THE &#@%!ING ROAD!!!!”
Such maturity. Such an exemplary father. Such an angry rut I was stuck in.
The line of traffic we were in led to an intersection at the base of a hill. This is where the motorcyclist and I would go our different directions. Of course, I had to have the final say.
For some reason (and still to this day I don’t know why), when it was his turn to pass through the intersection, he crossed the street then positioned his motorcycle sideways, so to have a better view of me. Perhaps he wanted to follow me, to get my license plate numbers, or just give me a good ol’ stare-down. I proceeded through the intersection, my pathway taking me right by him. I ever so slowly creeped past, and in the heat of my boil, pointed my finger at him and said not a word, but simply let the weight of my gesture speak for itself. His helmet had been on this entire time. He gave no response. For all I could tell, he was frozen.
* * *
I hadn’t driven two blocks when I realized how I would’ve done anything to turn back time and erase my trail of anger. How certain I was of myself for letting this guy know that his self-imposed rules of the road do in fact have repercussions. People like myself will aggressively ride his tail. But all that I had done was so unlike me. I had been in the same situation countless times, and had always let things slide.
Just before I dropped my daughter off for class, I said to her, “You know, all that stuff I said back there, all that rage…I can’t believe I just did that. And now that it’s all done—this feeling stinks.”
“It’s okay,” she said, “He shouldn’t have run that stop sign like he did.”
“Yes,” I replied, “but I shouldn’t have acted how I did. It was stupid.”
I was overcome with regret. I wanted to drive back there and offer to buy him a coffee or breakfast, or something where we could sit and talk it out. Discover some kind of common ground where we could both acknowledge our faults. And if, in the process of that offer, he might chose to flip me off again, then so be it. But at least I would’ve felt good for having tried.
The reality is that I never did drive back to find him. I let that opportunity slip away and, instead, chose the path of least resistance by going onward about my day.
I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
Copyright Ros Hill 2016