I’m as bad as anyone else when it comes to getting annoyed at other people when they drive badly. And there have been occasions (I’m not proud) when I’ve leant on the horn or flipped the bird at another driver, usually after ascertaining that they’re not bigger than me.
But here’s the thing. Recently I was on the receiving end of some pretty nasty road rage. I admit, I had pulled off what was a pretty lousy manoeuvre but I hadn’t put anyone in any danger, at worst I had just slowed someone’s day down by about 15 seconds. He overtook me, slammed on his brakes and forced me to stop in the fast lane of a dual carriageway. He then proceeded to get out and stomp over to me, where he screamed and shouted, banging his fist on my window inviting me to get out. Oddly enough I didn’t find it that exciting a proposition so I declined politely. Fortunately the car behind me backed up a little giving me the room to escape around the lunatic’s car, and by the time he had got back in to give chase I was long gone.
I’ll admit I was pretty shaken up by the whole episode, but what made me feel worst was that I was on the way back from visiting my daughter in hospital, where she was very sick and we had been told she could have sepsis (blood poisoning); not particularly nice for any child but for a 2 year old with one kidney potentially fatal. It made me realise that on all those occasions when I’ve got angry and shouted, honked or shown the finger to someone for driving badly, I’d never once considered what might be happening in that other person’s world. 99 times out of a hundred it’s quite probable that they’re just going on their merry way and driving like a tool. But what about the person who’s driving badly because their wife’s just left them? Or they’ve lost their job? Or they’ve just been diagnosed with lung cancer? My gesticulations won’t have helped me or anyone else have a better, more prosperous life. But they could definitely have made someone’s bad day distinctly worse.
So now when I get cut up, or someone doesn’t indicate, or they’re in the wrong lane on the roundabout, I try to be more considerate of the mystery of that person’s universe. My wife will tell you I’m still not perfect. But I am trying.