As an urban dweller, I have lost count of the number of times that a car, waiting for me to cross legally in the crosswalk, got honked at by the cars behind it because they didn’t see me. I have lost count of the number of times that the slightest delay in traffic – let’s say a driver not noticing she had the green light for a second or two – provoked a chorus of angry horns from other drivers. In traffic, we have all felt the surge of rage when the “idiot” ahead of us makes a bonehead lane change or slows down for no apparent reason. I believe that it would be very nice if drivers would count slowly to three before venting hostility or honking in non-emergency situations. In the time it takes to count to three, we might realize that (1) that person could be having a stroke or a diabetic episode; (2) that person might be having a problem in the car, such as a child meltdown, or a mechanical problem; (3) that person might be hopelessly lost and in need of directions; (4) that person might be a senior citizen with slow reflexes. (How many of us have a parent whose driving terrifies us? Would you want a bunch of angry drivers honking at Grandma and just making her more anxious?). Let’s assume none of the above applies and the other driver is a bona fide jerk. Do you honestly think that yelling an obscenity or insult is going to make that person more responsible or considerate? Isn’t it a truism that the more in the wrong someone is, the more defensive they become? If you have counted to three and that other driver really does deserve to be taken down a notch, may I suggest that it makes more sense to do something like phoning in their license number to the local police or aggressive driver hotline. We expect the Sunnis and Shiites to try to get along, yet most of us are too intolerant to give the other driver the benefit of the doubt for a few seconds. And most of us, at least occasionally, make the same bonehead moves that we deplore in others. Next time someone holds up traffic, you might try this radical approach: roll you’re your window and ask if they are OK. It will make you feel good, and probably make the other person’s day.
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