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Road Rancor (Or, Giving Someone the Finger)

road rancor - Denver -

Road rage builds up after some stewing. Road rancor, on the other hand, is when a person’s natural instinct is to give you the finger even though they’re in the wrong.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove through the lazy Denver Highlands streets and braked at an intersection. As I was supposed to. You know, because it’s a four-way stop. As the only car at that four-way stop, I then began to cross Tennyson when another car whipped into view and slammed right through the stop sign on Tennyson without braking. I braked and swerved, narrowly missing that car.

What did the other driver do? Give me a sheepish wave? Look away in her embarrassment? Sign a cross to thank God she hadn’t caused an accident?

Nope. She gave me the finger.

WTFF? (the extra “F” stands for “flying” — TM Carolyn)

How certain do you have to be that the other driver’s in the wrong and you’re in the right to give another driver the finger? And upon what are you basing that I’m right, she’s wrong decision? And even if you’re dead certain that the other driver’s in the wrong, exactly how egregious does the other driver’s error have to be to justify giving her the finger?

To be clear, this lady’s behavior didn’t seem like road rage to me. I’ve witnessed road rage and heard my share of stores. In fact, years ago, a coworker scared the bejesus out of me when he told me that some lady had cut him off in a grocery store parking lot. In response, he followed her on the highway and chased her all the way to her home. After arriving at her home, she got out of her car and he got out of his, after which time he yelled at her in her driveway until she ran inside, presumably to hide or call the police. Or both.

Now that? That was road rage.

Now, the lady at the Denver intersection didn’t have time to build up to road rage. In the fleeting seconds during which our accident almost occurred, all she had time for was road rancor. A middle finger. A, hey other driver, I always have the right of way no matter WTFF I’m doing or where I’m going so get TFF out of my way.

I can’t help but wonder what’s going on here. Maybe we sometimes let the relative security of 2,000 pounds of steel go to our heads? Maybe seeing a metal box as a vehicular armament enables the powerless to feel fleeting moments of power? Or maybe such behavior is a sign of a more general cultural malaise? Maybe some people are simply assholes?

Or, as I’m reminded constantly, everybody is dealing with something. Maybe other driver was just having a bad day.

Whatever the case, afterward I felt, not anger, not frustration, but sadness. But then, maybe a dollop of sadness should periodically seep into this most aggressively happy of seasons.

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