You know when you need to change lanes? Do you use the turn signal or not? (I do. In fact, I feel twitchy if I’m turning and don’t signal. I even signal in my development when no one is behind me)

Anyway, there are times when you just know the moment you click on the signal, you’re activating the competitive switch on the guy in the next lane. Yes, sir, the moment that flasher starts blinking he’ll do everything in his power to prevent you from getting in front of him (we’ll be sexist and say it’s a guy). There's a line of cars behind him and you are several car lengths ahead, but from the moment you turned on that signal, he’s closed the gap.

You eye the vastness ahead (or maybe just a few car lengths—enough for you both, anyway) and speed up.

And he speeds up.

And you speed up.

And so on, until you both qualify as moving violations.

Then, when you get ahead enough to squeeze in, the guy switches lanes and speeds off, victorious.

Why do we do this? What’s the point of turning a trip from Point A to Point B into the Indy 500? People are supposed to be the smartest creatures on the planet, and maybe that would be true if our egos didn’t get ahead of our rational thought.

Here’s another one:

One afternoon, I’m exiting the metro station garage. Ahead of me is a gray car that could easily kick the pants off of mine (it's a Subaru Impreza WRX, for those of you who are wondering). Sometimes the people who drive these cars are normal. They have a fondness for high velocity and occasionally they test the posted speed limit but they also have enough common sense to know rush hour is not the time to do it. Then there’s the other kind--all speed, all the time, those that think if your gas pedal isn't permanently floored, something's wrong with you. I didn’t find out which one this guy was until later.

So the gray car proceeds into the line of cars corralled at the exit gate. Well, there’s another exit that allows you to access the other two exit gates more easily, you just have to turn right and then go through the other way out of the garage. So guess what? I turned.

I paid the parking fee, exited and in my side view mirror, I see the gray car is still there, stuck in the pipeline of cars waiting to get out.

“Heh,” I think, “should’ve turned right, buddy.”

I get onto the highway and the gray car is now a fading memory. But then wait—there, in the side view mirror, who do I see growing larger and larger behind the words “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear?”

The gray car.

Here it comes, barreling down the asphalt, passing me and whipping ahead onto the exit ramp.

“Go on and do your thing,” I think. If the guy wanted to play the real life version of Need for Speed then who was I to stand in his way? We’re both heading in the same direction onto the interstate. He opts for the “express” lanes while I stay local. Usually I go express, but that afternoon, that section of the the road did not resemble its label.

For the second time in five minutes, I pass the gray car (who’s trapped on the other side of the concrete barrier). As I do so, I can almost feel the burning stare radiating from the driver of the gray car. “Ha-ha,” I think, “should’ve gone local, pal.”

The weekend goes by and then a day, maybe two and once again I’m exiting the metro station garage. Who’s there, just a few cars behind me?

(Dun-dun-dunnnn) The gray car!

I make it to the highway and don’t think about the gray car again. Then I check the rear view mirror. Guess who’s there, so close that I don’t even see the headlights?

At this point I realize I'm being tailgated--bullied, really--on purpose. The driver obviouslyknows my car; it’s a bright blue thing with a black roof and black racing stripes on the nose. Why did I have to spec it to be so damn obvious, I chided myself. Why did I feel the need to be so different all the time?

Panic flashes through my gut when I check the mirror again and see that he's still there.

Thoughts scroll through my head: “He can’t be mad about the other day. It's not possible; he doesn’t even know me. Besides, how can he be mad that the local lanes were moving and I happened to take them and he didn't. It's not my fault he made the wrong choice, I mean sure, I chuckled to myself but how would he know that? I didn't point and laugh at him as I passed.” This wasn’t road rage, it was “Road grudge” with a hefty dose of a special kind of crazy.

I switch lanes (evasive maneuver!) and he’s right there with me, as if a two foot rope is connecting our bumpers. I move over again, and he swerves and keeps on me for a second.

Then the grudgemeister swings into the carpool lane (illegally, I might add) and disappears, victorious. I let out my breath and let my car blend in with the rest of the evening traffic.

Sometimes winning involves finishing first and sometimes it just means letting the nutjobs have their way.

No comments: