I am the mother of three active kids. Therefore, I spend a lot of time in the car.
I am also a people watcher. While I am behind the wheel, I try to limit my people watching to times when the car is actually stopped. People seem to be less inhibited when driving. Perhaps it’s the power of having a two ton mass of steel under your control. Perhaps it’s the illusion that no one can actually see you, or that no one is paying attention. Whatever it is, it leads drivers to sing and dance, to pick their noses, and to yell and scream and flip others the bird.
Enter the Tale of Two Drivers.
Driver # 1
I was navigating my minivan slowly through the Trader Joe’s parking lot when I came upon another car pointed towards me, stopped in the middle of the lanes, holding up traffic in all directions. Behind the wheel of this car was an elderly woman, perhaps in her eighties, maybe even nineties. She was obviously very confused. By the time I came upon her, there was another driver out of her car, speaking gently to the elderly woman, trying to help her get where she needed to go. The confused woman was visibly upset. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I wanted to jump out an hug her, but that would have added to the chaos and confusion. The helpful woman had it covered. All of the other drivers sat patiently waiting for the good samaritan driver to get it worked out.
Every driver but one, that is.
The woman driving the huge SUV directly behind the elderly woman’s car was laying on her horn and shaking her fists. I must note here that the scene I just described happened over a minute’s time – not ten minutes or an hour – but in less than 60 seconds. It took less than sixty seconds for the helper driver to guide this distraught woman over to the side and out of traffic. It also only took sixty seconds for SUV woman to scare and humiliate another human being, a human being who could have easily been her grandmother, or mine, or yours. When traffic started moving again, SUV woman and I passed slowly by each other. She did not look in my direction, but I got a nice long look at her. Her face was beet red, painted by anger and frustration, her fists were still shaking, and she was alternating between cursing and shoving handfuls of french fries into her mouth. And all I could think was “Thank God I do not live inside this woman’s head.”
Don’t get me wrong. I, too, have felt anxiety over running late, only to be stuck in traffic. I, too, have cursed other drivers. I, too, have shoved french fries into my mouth. But that rage? That rage that allows someone to violate the safety and respect of a woman who is scared and vulnerable? I do not know that rage. And for that, I am grateful.
I glided to a stop at a traffic light just as it was turning red and landed beside another car waiting to turn left. Behind the wheel of this car was another woman, perhaps the age of my mother. This woman’s long, mostly gray hair was braided down her back. She wore what looked to me like a traditional Indian dress.
And she was JAMMIN”.
I don’t just mean singing along to the music. I mean she was performing percussion on the steering wheel, belting out lyrics, and bouncing up and down in her seat. And all I could think was, “God, I wish I lived in this woman’s head.”
Don’t get me wrong. I, too, have been known to sing along to the music, sometimes even with gusto. I, too, do not embarrass easily. But that lack of inhibition? That comfort with oneself that allows someone to lay it all out there, pitchy and crazy as it may be. I do not (yet) know that lack of inhibition. But I’m getting there. And for that, I am grateful.
Rock on, Driver #2, rock on.