It was a pleasant summer morning recently to be driving, but the threat of another roasting day was staring back at me on the dashboard thermometer. It was nearly 90 degrees — barely three hours after the rooster had crowed the day awake.
My wife and I were in one vehicle, and my son, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter were right behind. We were headed to a favorite breakfast spot. Our visiting son and his crew were trailing in the other car.
Sitting one spot ahead at the traffic light was a truck with its bed loaded with stuff. The light changed to green, and what happened next caused me to divorce the notion that this kind of stuff can’t happen to me.
My friend Guy Reynolds, an award-winning photojournalist and former Advocate staffer, went toe-to-toe with cancer for more than two years. It …
The truck didn’t budge, even though the light was green. My first thought was that it was someone buried in Twitter, texting on a cellphone or lost in a conversation with a passenger. Maybe the car had just stopped because of engine problems.
I waited a few seconds, then tapped my horn, hoping it would snap the driver into reality. Nothing happened. I blew my horn again. Usually, if someone’s car is stalled, a hand would come of out of the window to wave other drivers on. This time, nothing.
I'd had enough, veering to the right to go around. Then I noticed a man storming out of the truck, appearing to be upset at me for blowing my horn. I angrily pointed to the traffic light to show him it was green and that he should have been moving his car.
We were able to make the light and I looked in the rear-view mirror to see that my son had made it too. A few seconds later, I could see that the truck had finally come through the intersection.
While I continued to drive toward our breakfast location, I looked in my rear-view mirror to see if my son was still behind me, but also to see if the guy in the truck was going to follow me to another intersection or to my destination for a confrontation.
Is this how terrible road rage incidents occur?
Interestingly, I was preparing mentally for either occurrence. But he turned off at another intersection.
Then came the tide of "what ifs."
What if the light had turned red before I could get around his vehicle as he approached my truck in an aggressive manner? I have no doubt I would have defended myself. At the same time, I know that my son would have gotten out of his car to be part of it.
What if I had a weapon in my car when he approached me? What if the guy would have had a weapon? What if he had hit my car or grabbed my door?
This is how a wonderful morning with the family could have become a tragedy.
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Is this how stories of road rage lead to violence? And who would have ever thought I would have been involved in anything like that? I always read those stories and shake my head. How could a traffic stop lead to violence, even death? How silly, I would think. I could never be involved in something like that.
Now, I was in a position where that could very well have happened had the traffic light at that intersection not been green when I went around the angry driver.
While I never said anything about it the rest of the day, I certainly thought about it for a while. All of the negative possibilities crossed my mind in just a couple of minutes.
Then I asked myself if I was wrong. Could I have handled it a different way, other than blowing my horn? I think I was right. What else could I have done?
But because of someone else’s rage, I, my family and others could have been injured or worse. I will try to eliminate that thing we often say in judgment of others: That would never happen to me.
Because for me, it almost did.