I drive a box-truck for work. 50 hours a week, driving in Columbus, Ohio, and what unnerves me most is every person who tailgates.
(My wife has a bumper sticker, At Least Buy Me Dinner Before You Ride My Ass. Succinct.)
Drive down Route 270, or 71, or 315, or even Broad Street, and you’re going to pass four cars pulled over in a line – because these idiots were tailgating one another.
Drive down the highway in the middle of the day, on a Sunday, and the highway will be empty and quiet except for five cars in a tight little line, maybe a dozen feet between them.
It is completely and pointlessly dangerous to drive so close to another car. Pass the car in front of you, or change lanes, or slow down for thirty seconds to give yourself some room. What idiot wants to be so far up another’s ass?
(See, I’m Not A Liberal, bumperstickers, or the, Obamacare Works For Me, bumperstickers.)
When people tailgate me, I get annoyed. When people tailgate me at work, when I’m driving the box-truck, I get pissed-off…
I was driving a straight two-lane that intersects a main road. There was a stop sign at the end. Behind me was a jackass who was tailgating so severely that I could not see his car. My sideview mirrors do a good job, but directly behind the truck is a large blind-spot. I knew the car was there, and I knew how close he had to be if I wasn’t able to see him.
I was pissed. I sped the truck down the road, jammed down the gas-pedal right up to the stop sign and then stomped on the brake. The tires locked and then skidded. I didn’t want the idiot behind me to hit my truck, but I wanted to give him a heart-thump and an obvious lesson.
Two minutes later I’m driving down the next road. My work phone rings and it’s my boss, and the first I think of is that the Tailgating Asshole took the number from the back of the truck to call and complain about my driving.
My boss tells me someone called in to say my truck has a brake-light that isn’t working.
And that’s why that man was tailgating my truck, wasn’t it? He wasn’t being an idiot-dipshit, he was trying to read the number on the back of the truck. Indignation over nothing. And I can’t help but see my own lesson here: not to assume or jump to conclusions.
I will always give people the Benefit Of the Doubt: I don’t know why you cut me off in traffic, maybe your wife’s going into labor or you’re late for an important interview; I don’t know why that person stuck their gum on the top of the bench where I sit, but maybe it was only a kid who doesn’t know better; I don’t know why my co-worker went to work with the flu, and then coughed into the refrigerator while looking for her lunch, but maybe she’s on the autistic spectrum.
I get a lot of indignation about the way other people poorly affect my life, and these feelings of personal affrontation can lead to frustration and anger. But it isn’t worth it, because I don’t know what the other person’s situation is, I have no clue what they’re doing. If the first conclusion I jump to is that the other person is intentionally slighting me, than what does that say about my perception of humanity?
If I think all people understand my emotions when they rouse my indignation, then that requires the other person’s intent: all people intend to offend me. That is a cruel world, a miserable humanity.
No. From now on I keep in mind the man who called in my broken brakelight, and I refuse my impulsive conclusions. I do not know the motivations of others, and I keep in my mind their motivations are honest, 87% of the time.