Driving to work in LA is an exercise in impulse control. I consider it a good day when I’ve made the round-trip, 90 minute drive without attempting – via bloodcurdling screams or iconic finger signage – to inform some selfish idiot that he should be killed.
It’s not that I’m some Type A driver attempting to accomplish an hour and a half drive in four and a half minutes. Quite the opposite. Friends call me “Grandma” when I’m behind the wheel. I’m a relaxed, everyone-in-their-turn driver.
Until some selfish d*** comes along.
Of course, I’m no fool. When some driver performs an act of callow narcissism and I feel obligated to respond, I reserve those helpful assessments for the area outside the “work radius” (that five-mile quadrant surrounding my place of employment). After all, nothing says “fire me” quite like hollering “Assface!” to the jerk in front of you who turns out to be your boss.
Good example: a while back, as the evening twilight was turning to darkness, I was zipping home along a surprisingly open stretch at the top of the canyon I take, where the road narrows to one lane. Suddenly, a red sedan several cars back brazenly gunned his motor, rocketed down the gravel shoulder of the road and cut me off, nearly forcing me to plow through the guard rail and plunge to my fiery, howling death in the canyon below.
Ironically, his wildly irresponsible antics didn’t garner him much, for a hundred yards up the road, we were stopped by a red light.
This was an act of such recklessness and disregard for human life that I was shocked. And flat-out incensed. I sat behind this jerk, fuming, trying to decide what to do. Should I flip him off? Get out of the car and pound on his window? Follow him home and set his house on fire?
I quickly nixed the last option, for obvious reasons ( I had no open containers of gasoline).
Then I remembered that I was still somewhat within the work radius. Take a deep breath, I told myself. Unclench your fists. No one (i.e. Me) needs to end up with a Lohan-style mug shot over this.
But I was still furious. Until it suddenly struck me that the car in front of me looked familiar.
Very familiar. I recognized the license plate.
The driver was one of my employees.
I picked up my cellphone and dialed his number. On the third ring, he picked up.
“Hey,” he replied casually, seeing my name on his screen.
“Bill [not his real name, which I imagine he's thanking me for],” I said calmly, “you could at least wave.”
There was a slight pause. “Huh?”
“Look,” I said evenly, “in your rear view mirror.”
It was almost dark and he couldn’t see my face, so I flashed my headlights. And, judging by the sudden tremor in his voice, I sensed a certain, shall we say, panic.
“Oh, uh, um, yeah, hi. Is that – is that you behind me?”
“Yes,” I replied, trying to hide my glee at, for probably the first time ever in one of these situations, having the upper hand. “Although I could just as easily be lying in the ravine.”
“What are you talking about?”
Bill is an enormously talented guy, but a terrible liar.
“You almost killed me just now by cutting me off that way,” I said in my most restrained tone. “Have you lost your mind, driving like that?”
Bill’s tendency to pilot a car like he’s trying to take the entire city out in one giant, flaming crash was well known, but I had never experienced it firsthand.
“Oh,” he replied, laughing nervously, his pitch elevating an octave or so, “I didn’t know that was you.”
“So in other words,” I replied, “the only way you wouldn’t have pulled that stunt is if you thought you were doing it to your boss?”
“Did I cut you off?” He sounded as if he had inhaled helium.
“Bill,” I said, calming down a bit, “you’re lucky that, number one, I’m a nice guy, and number two, that I know you. And number three, that I don’t have a baseball bat.” I could hear him swallowing loudly on the other end as I added, “Especially number three.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“Maybe,” I suggested, “you shouldn’t be so aggressive.”
“Maybe I should watch who’s behind me.” He obviously thought humor was the way to go.
“I was ahead of you before you cut me off.” I obviously didn’t.
“Oh, shoot,” he said quickly, silently thanking God that we were in a canyon. “There’s a blind spot ahead. I’m gonna lose you.”
I was proud of myself for handling this incident in a relatively rage-free fashion.
And then, THIS happened.
(More to come…)
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