Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Observation on Road Rage

Well, I started a new job yesterday, and totally missed my post (I'm still trying to keep up a daily Mon-Fri schedule on this). I'm looking at a lot of long days from here on out, we'll see how I can keep up.

In any case, as the new job involves way too much time spent driving around New Jersey, I just wanted to make an observation on the nature of road rage.

Why do people do stupid things in or around cars? I've read a lot of talk about how cars give people a delusional sense of power, or the isolation of all that steel and glass depersonalizes everything, etc, but I'd like to offer another hypothesis: people react the way they do because they feel powerless in a car.

Think about it from the perspective of your caveman brain now. You're driving along, minding your own business when some fool in an overpriced SUV swerves from the right lane, cutting you off and making you slam on the brakes, all because he's trying to get a car length or two ahead. The guy's obviously an antisocial jerk, and yelling and flipping him off gets no reaction, or at least nothing you can see through his tinted back window, he just ignores you and swerves around the next couple cars, making the guy who's now in front of you slam on his brakes, and almost causing you to rear end that one.

OK, annoyed yet? Now, what can you do about it? This guy just shoved you around like a playground bully. He made a bunch of folks miserable and almost caused them to get hurt for no good reason other than the fact he thinks his need to get home is more important than anyone else's.

So what can you do about it? This is where the anger kicks in, and the caveman brain rebels, because in civilized society, you can't do a damn thing. You're strapped down in a single position, cut off from everybody else by a big, clumsy hunk of steel, and bound by a mountain of restriction and regulation. SUV guy could've killed you by running you off the road, and you can't even say "hey" to his face. It's infuriating.

That is, unless you give into the caveman brain, which says, "I'll show him" and charge ahead to ram him, or follow him home and whack him with your tire iron. Deprived of even the basic human ability to make faces at the guy, our frustration only builds. THAT is why we get so angry on the road, not because our motorized conveyance gives us the powers of the gods, but because when we're locked into them, we don't even have the chance to be human.

No comments: