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The Better Me Project—Day 7

Yes, this may seem oddly specific, but if I phrase it this way, it helps me realize how absolutely ridiculous my behavior is. I suffer from ERRBOBSP.

That is, “Extreme Road Rage Brought on By Stupid People”. I’m sure a lot of you suffer from the same affliction.

I yell at cars. I scream at people. I curse at geese waddling in the middle of the street. My road rage got so bad at one point that my daughter and her friend secretly video taped our short drive home from school one day, just because they thought it was “hysterical”.

I looked at that video and asked myself, “Holy crap…what are you so angry about?” I think this realization became even more obvious after I started making the conscious effort to smile—my road rage face was the absolute opposite of smiling. When I saw the video, my anger was palpable—I could practically feel my heart racing and blood pressure zooming. Not to mention, I sounded completely ridiculous.

What the heck was I getting mad at? The stupid people walking in front of my car and not crossing at crosswalks? They’re the ones who are going to get hit by a car if they’re not careful. Why am mad at them? Why am I mad at the guy who cut me off? Or the woman who’s going 90 miles an hour down the Parkway?

Sure, their behavior is completely unsafe and most like to eventually cause an accident, but how does my yelling and screaming and giving them the finger help the situation?

The answer is…it doesn’t. In fact, those people can’t even hear me and probably have no idea that they’ve completely pissed me off. They might not even be aware of the fact that they are stupid, which unfortunately is a symptom of stupidity as well.

As much as I would like to think my personal road rage may prevent an accident (by somehow bringing the offending party to the realization that they are in fact, stupid), the opposite is in fact true.

Road rage is the leading cause of accidents. People so angry at the person who cut them off that they ride their bumper all the way down the Turnpike until they crash into a fiery ball, are the cause of accidents.

So let me look at this logically—say someone blows a stop sign and almost hits my car. I could: A) Flip the hell out and scream and yell, causing my blood pressure to reach a boiling point and cause long term ill effects on my health or I could B) grumble silently to myself and LET IT GO.

Let’s say I choose A. A doesn’t help the situation at all. First off, I don’t know what that other person’s deal is. Are they a new driver? Is their vision failing? Are they rushing to the vet because their precious puppy is having a seizure in the backseat and their 2 year old is hysterically crying? The other driver may not actually be stupid. They might just be engaging in stupid behavior at the time due to circumstances.

You can’t tell me that all of us haven’t been that driver who has sped home because they have to pee? Or driven while crying hysterically? Or accidentally missed a stop sign?

None of us are perfect and we need to remember that before screaming at the top of our lungs and stressing ourselves out over something that we have no control over at all. Because that’s what road rage is…loss of control.

Near misses are scary as hell. They’re a reminder that we could have been in a heck of a worse situation had we not swerved out of the way or hit the brakes. The situation could have been tragic had we not been paying attention.

What if we choose B? We shake off whatever frustrated or scared us and move on, grateful for the reminder that life can turn on a dime. We remain aware and alert and don’t let this get to us. But how? B is definitely the more difficult choice since our instinct is to lose our cool (well, for most of us except those annoyingly even-keeled super humans that never seem to break a sweat).

I tried a couple of things to tamp down the road rage. First was making sure I was listening to music I liked on the radio. Music has a calming effect (even music that pumps you up helps relieve stress). Singing along also helps (and embarrasses any children you may have in the car). Just like it’s difficult to be mad when you’re smiling, it’s difficult to dissolve into a fit of road rage when you are singing at the top of your lungs.

If that didn’t work, I took a deep breath and counted to ten. It sounds utterly hokey, but by the time I reached ten, I had no desire to yell anymore—screaming at cars was a reflex to me; once I stopped for a few seconds, the urge to do it went away.

And lastly, the daily meditation in the morning really sets the stage for the rest of the day—I practically feel my type A personality melting away. Okay, maybe it’s not that crazy, but still…I absolutely feel calmer. I haven’t even muttered under my breath when I find people in my Reserved parking spot in the morning. And believe me, I’ve gone up to people still sitting in their cars and told them off for taking my spot in the past.

And yes, I’m aware that I only drive a few miles a day, but I live in a really congested area with a lot of drivers trying out for the Stupidity Olympics, hence my road rage problem. I really think using these tactics has helped me reduce stress while driving, which in turn makes me a calmer and safer driver.

The weirdest thing about curing my road rage is that I suddenly realize that other people that I drive with have incredible road rage as well (ahem…hubby). He seriously needs to calm the $%&* down. The other day when we were driving, I was trying to get him to agree to try meditation—he honked the horn at me, flipped me the bird, and told me to pick a goddamn lane.

*P.S. I just drove all the way down to Ocean City—hubby was a forced prisoner in the passenger seat. He twiddled his fingers, tapped his toes, muttered under his breath—I denied him the joy of yelling at cars on the trip. I think he’s still mad at me.

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