Friday, May 28, 2010

Anonymous Behind the Wheel

Have you ever noticed that some people turn into complete ogres as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car?  People you like, your friends and family, who otherwise appear to be perfectly decent human beings? I have a theory about that.

When I was little and my grandmother caught me sneaking around, doing something I shouldn't have been doing, instead of yelling at me she told me this: You can tell what a person is really like by what they choose to do when no one is watching. (Yeah, Grandmother Crews was an immensely cool lady.) I think this is what happens when we drive.
Think about it. Unless you drive a convertible or live in a really, really small town (or both) the other drivers don't know who you are. They can barely see your face. They can't identify you by your license plate. So you can do pretty much whatever you want and get away with it.

I have a few friends and relatives (thankfully, only a few) who take advantage of this anonymity. I have begun to wonder about their true nature, how they really view themselves in relation to the rest of mankind, due to their driving habits. These are people who appear thoughtful and compassionate when in direct contact with other human beings but who morph into The Angry Driving Beast when they get behind the wheel.

You've met people like this on the road. They tailgate you because you're not going fast enough for them, even if you're already speeding. They cut you off. They lay on the horn when you don't zip ahead quickly enough the moment the light turns green. They speed like nobody's business, not just a little but a hell of a lot.

Here's the thing: When you get your drivers license, after you've passed the written and driving tests to prove you KNOW the law, you sign a contract. This contract says you will obey that law (you can't claim ignorance here since you've just passed the test) and will drive in a safe and courteous manner. Most people choose to do so. But there are a few who don't.

Do they think they're above the law? Maybe where they're going is vastly more important than where everyone else is going. Maybe they're angry that so many other people are out on "their" road, blocking their progress. This kind of driving behavior makes me think that these people believe themselves to be somehow better than everyone else. Otherwise, I just can't explain it - why would a decent person suddenly become indecent in the driver's seat of an automobile?

I've got to go take my daughter to a petsitting job now. Let's hope I don't meet too many of those drivers along the way.