The Thursday Blog: Rude Drivers Edition

I try really hard not to be an asshole driver.I have always felt that the measure of a person was in how they treated people when they didn’t really have to be nice. Online, behind the wheel, dealing with service people, what have you. Once when I was sixteen and just leaning how to drive I leaned out of the window and screamed at a girl who was walking down the street and just happened to be crossing in front of my granddad’s driveway. Twenty six years later my shameful behavior still haunts me. I never knew who she was, but if I could find her I would certainly apologize. As it is that display of stupidity has probably led me to be ever more conscientious with the thousands of folks who have come after her. I hope she would consider it a fitting tribute.

Also playing a role was the example set by my ex-father as I grew up. He is an angry, belligerent man, unfailingly rude and spiteful to anyone he felt he had the slightest power over, (which included his family) and brightly sunny towards those he did not. My siblings and I have watched him be offensive to so many waiters and waitresses that we eventually nicknamed him “the Spittoon”.

Over the past couple of days I have been witness to two incidents of casual rudeness. I was tailgated and then flipped off for driving only five miles above the speed limit and then arriving at my destination, (which necessitated my slowing down to turn) and later passed (without a passing lane) and cut off… causing me to swerve into the wrong lane for an instant… by a woman I saw moments later when I arrived at the grocery store. (Our eyes met as she passed and I got a very good look at her.) I made certain to act as neutral as I could when I asked her if she felt her groceries were important enough to endanger my life. Although I never got an answer to my question, I did get some satisfaction as she hurriedly strode from the store, leaving her half-full cart of food behind.

For me the decision to be nicer came from me looking for self respect. I was pretty much a dick as a teenager and young man, and when I got old enough to notice, I realized I didn’t much care for myself. People I did like and respected however, were people who were generous with their smiles and time and attention, not just to the people on whom they depended, but also to people they hardly knew. I am a suspicious person by nature, and I think it takes a very special kind of bravery to be open with everyone you meet. I don’t have that kind of bravery yet, but I’d sure like to.

I wonder now, as I sit and write, what the people I met on the road think of themselves, if they even do. Was this their sixteen year old moment, as they are feeling the edges of their personality, trying to define who they really are? Or are they angry and bitter inside, acting out against a world that might otherwise not even notice them? (They were both considerably older than sixteen, but I imagine that moment can happen at any time.) Do they like themselves? Are they proud?

I am certainly not perfect. Lena corrects me all the time when I say something to someone, frequently without meaning to… but not always, that comes across as aggressive or mean spirited. I do try, but she’s a good barometer of my success — or lack thereof. I honestly expect I will go to my grave without ever really getting it right, and that’s okay. As long as I’m trying to improve I at least know my intentions are in the right place, and that’s enough to satisfy my own standards.

Although if you’re a dick to me first I’ll probably try and run you over.

42 Responses to The Thursday Blog: Rude Drivers Edition

  1. “For me the decision to be nicer came from me looking for self respect. I was pretty much a dick as a teenager and young man, and when I got old enough to notice, I realized I didn’t much care for myself.”

    Unfortunately, most people never have this realization, especially someone coming from a situation where the male role model was such a monster. I had my “I’m a dick” moment when I was 14 and 20 years later I still see the beast rise in me far more often than I’d like. And my male role model (married my mom when I was 6 and does a great job with the title of “Dad” and even better with “Grandpa”) growing up was a great example to me that I am still trying to live up to.

    Humanity on the whole is a lazy schmuck who tends to take the easy way. Nastiness is much easier to maintain than a pleasant demeanor, and anything that takes less effort is the way that the majority of people are gonna go. It takes a conscious effort to be nice but spite is instinctive so that is the one we see most often and the natural response to it is to return the favor. Doing anything else takes thought or years of practice to build it up to a habit.

    At least you have a nice spite-ometer in Lena. Having someone whose opinion you respect that much and who is actually the kind of person who pays attention to that stuff makes the process of being a better person easier (not easy, it’s never easy). My spite-ometer is knowing that I should be a good role-model to my kids. A lot more pressure, but they are definitely worth it.

    That being said, I fully agree with that last line you wrote. And if they’re lucky, you won’t back up and take another run.

    • I kinda think that most folks want to be nice, and probably even think that they are. It’s just that it’s really hard to monitor yourself about it all the time. We get involved with whatever it is that we’re doing and forget other stuff, like being kind. However, like anything else, you can develop kindness as a reflex, so it’s your new default instead of nastiness.

      As you say, it ain’t easy. Half the time I find myself stuck on “snark” instead of “nice”, but like I said, I keep trying.

      • I feel that most people indeed think they are nice and good to some extent, but are actually callous and uncaring.
        I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly nice person, but I try to be nice and polite to those who deserve it.
        I’ve always hated when my father shouted and cursed at tech-supporters on the phone, and TBH I’m filled with rage when I see people at the grocery store etc shouting at the workers.
        Spending a year in a full-service gas station has only sharpened this feeling, and I had some flip-out moments on some of the nastier customers, refusing to service them or giving a few choice words regarding their person.

        I particularly hate old women who have this smugness about them for some reason. They’re usually your typical “grandma” type, look nice and polite, and you(well, not me, I suspect most of them by now) wouldn’t think of them raising their voice and berating people for nothing.
        But here they are, shouting at employees because they didn’t understand with their feeble minds the big words explaining the specifics of the special sale, or they were just being busy trying to cut their way through the line and the employee decided to service the customer who was supposed to be next.

        I’m not an especially friendly person to those I don’t deem to deserve it(OK, I’m probably not that friendly to anyone but dogs*, but I try to limit my sarcasm etc. A friend once said I had no tact, but it’s more that I just don’t care), and I don’t care in the slightest if bodily harm is caused to such people. So one such time with one such old woman at the grocery store I went to her side and calmly, quietly commented something regarding stabbing, her body and myself.
        After a moment she quieted and went away. Problem(partially) solved.

        See? There’s almost no problem that can’t be solved by the promise of violence. 8)

        *Puppppppies!!! :mrgreen:

        • You probably should have been arrested. I’m also pretty sure that having no tact and “just not caring” are, in your case, the same thing.

          • Yea, I know it was stupid in retrospect, as I could’ve been charged with something(though the chance for that is rather small), but I still believe it was the right thing to do. People like her deserve to experience their own vileness firsthand.

            I’m not sure though if you’re saying I should’ve been arrested as in “she might’ve called the cops”, or as in “I personally think you should’ve been arrested for it”. I presume the later, to which I disagree- bad people deserve bad things.

            BTW, your own example of the lady who cut you off and who you later confronted makes me think that the reason she ran away, leaving her goods behind, is that you were menacing(an angry looking man who you’ve just personally upset in a country where just about anyone can own a gun…not to mention drivers always seem to get really angry about that sort of thing), not out of shame. You blush or apologize when you’re ashamed, you don’t run off the store.
            You might not think of it that way, but I can tell you I’d expect violence coming my way if I were her.
            So if you meant the later with your “should have”, I see no difference between us, only that I to put the cards on the table.
            I’m a slightly built(~5′ 5″, ~110 lb…silly inches, convert to metric already) guy with a youthful appearance, I don’t really have what it takes to scare callously evil ladies with the mere hint of violence, I have to say it out in the open.

            • I only meant that it was illegal… and probably not all that well advised. As for whether or not I actually think you should have been locked up…? I don’t really have an opinion.

              The woman I confronted turned white, not red, as she fled, and your point there is well taken. I would add to it though that there are occasionally consequences for acting like an ass to someone, and while my motive was only to make her as uncomfortable as possible, I could have been an entirely different kind of person. (And yes, I have been been told I can look kind of menacing when I’m angry. It’s not a conscious thing though, so I almost never realize when it’s happened.)

              • If your avatar is close to your appearance I can see why. I’m guessing you’re not a short fellow, and the diet-related posts indicate you’re probably somewhat heavy, which gives weight to your words(ooh, a pun!). That facial hair is another “bonus”. In all likeliness you look like a burly, scary man whenever you’re scowling.
                In short, you’ve got a positive modifier on your “Intimidate” checks.

                I admit I got a bit “heated” when I suspected you might be telling me it was a morally wrong thing to do, because one of the things that makes(or maybe shows it) people so callous is the fact that they might shout for the blood of a murderer, rapist or some-such, but they’ll ignore the simple, everyday evil that surrounds them.
                They think they’re good and pure but they behave like assholes when they can, and that’s almost just as evil.

  2. dear god I wish more people were nice on the internet and especially in videogames

    I remember when I first started online gaming and people would tell me I was really nice person, but now? im told im a arrogant jerk =(

    • Videogames are a big place for awful behavior towards each other. It’s kind of counterintuitive too, if you consider that the purpose of being there is to have fun, and the antagonistic behavior simply raises the level of anxiety across the board.

    • Online gaming is actually a nice place fer jerks since, contrary to the normal world, anyone can become powerful enough to bully people and act as a jerk without them being unable to do anything about it.

      No wonder they are full of 16-years old 😉

    • That’s just about why I don’t play RTS/shooter games online, and something that has always spoiled some of the fun on MMORPGs for me.

      OTOH, one of the aspects of this violent behaviour is stupid little males coming onto anything they think they can hump without being labeled as “gay”(the worst state of existence known to adolescent-males)- usually female player avatars, which I often use.
      I’ve had a few cases where I actually enjoyed having a stupid little boy try his charms on me, it was just so fun to watch. And later crush their little hearts when I told them I was a guy.
      Have I mentioned I hate kids today?

      • It’s not just kids. Adults seem to be just as prone to this kind of thing. Give a certain kind of person anonymity and they will turn into a raging asshole in a heartbeat. I don’t think that trash talk in an online game or any competitive event is out of place but only if it is done in a tongue in cheek, friendly manner. I do it all the time with my brothers and friends and we don’t get into fist fights.

        I had the same kind of role model that you did when I was growing up Kevin. So did he. The difference between him and I is simply that I decided to avoid that kind of behavior if I could help it and he decided not to reign in his anger, frustration and disappointment. He thinks I’m a wuss but doesn’t realise that I have the same temper that he has. People don’t see it very often because you have to work hard to bring it out. That’s because I had his raging example in my face for my entire life. Going through all that with him was neither fun nor easy but at least I’m a better person for it.

            • You become Lemon Man, the most sour villain the world has ever seen, and squeeze human-lemonade out of your victims?

              On sec0nd thought, human-lemonade doesn’t sound all that good…Damn you, Kevin, you’ve tricked me into making a second pee-fetish reference in one day!

  3. Rudeness and its many cousins are actually my main reason for not going near those online multiplayer games. Young or old, male or female, color or religion, dickheads and hoopholes comes in all forms and sizes really, but an abnormal percentage seem to end up on places like WoW. 🙄

    • I played WoW for a long time, and in my experience the number of actual assholes in the game was in the low single digits. The huge majority of players simply never say anything, and of those who did, most wanted to be helpful… or at the least were goal rather than insult oriented.

      Of course if 1% of the population is a dick and there are 1,000 people within earshot, that means that there are always dicks within shouting distance. But those bozos really aren’t the face of the game, and I discovered an infinite capacity to ignore them while I played.

        • /ignore is the best command ever in online games. If it doesn’t let you do that for some reason, actually ignoring them or threatening to report them (and then actually doing it) or etc. is your 2nd best bet.

          I never hesitate to use it even when I’m not sure because chances are I’ll never play with that guy again (whether I want to or not) as there are thousands of others. In rare cases when it even matters I can /unignore.

  4. Very nice and touching post, kevin. For what it’s worth, well, respect.

    As per my take on “why are people so rude”, I think it’s often linked to a lack of empathy: It’s easy to forget that other people are, like us, human beings, with thoughts, feelings and emotions, and instead to treat them as just NPCs in the game that is our life.

    • Especially in a world where it’s socially acceptable to divide people into camps. Humans naturally (and quite by design) demonize the “other”, because it makes it easier to deal with our instinctual desire to do violence to them. (Protecting our resources, whatever they might be, from the “other” tribe.) If we allow ourselves into the position where everyone we don’t know personally is the “other”, we have created exactly the situation you describe.

      • Orald, that sounds very familiar and it’s bugging me that I don’t remember where I’ve heard of the Voight-Kampf test. I keep thinking that it is a fictional test and maybe saw it in Farenheit 451 but I’m really not sure. Wasn’t it designed to measure empathy in sentient beings or something like that? Please help me out here.

        • Do Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep? and Blade Runner. Used to find out androids because they lack empathy for other beings…not that humans are so great about it either.

          • Thanks Orald, I remember now. I gotta check out both book and movie again. It’s been a while since I checked out either one.

  5. I’m way too nice to everyone. it gets me taken advantage of quite a bit. People tell me I “Over try to impress” which, I don’t think I am. I just treat every the way I would like to be treated. Nicely.

    • Being nice is completely different from being a doormat. There are a thousand nice ways to say no.

      Part of being a good person (as I see this, others may disagree) is having respect for yourself. Even if your only goal is to do the most good in the world you can, you will be hundreds of times more effective if you pace yourself, bite off only what you can chew, and do not become resentful and burnt out.

      Respect yourself — and your time — and others will too. If you give it no value, then why should anyone else?

  6. It might be my look on humanity, but most people i meet are well assholes, with the mindset.

    “better them then me”

    While I partially agree, I prefer to treat people the way I want to be treated.
    Then again ” It’s better to piss you off then to get pissed on” or how ever that go’s.
    😉

  7. The other day a SUV was merging onto I66 W and hit a sports car causing it to spin wildly, ejecting a passenger, and significantly change the lives of a few people. This SUV did not bother to look but simply floored it expecting that either no one was there or that They would move out of his way. My Fience’s sister and her daughter were directly behind and witnessed the hit and near run.

    On my way from my parents house there is a 2 lane road that goes over a small creek, the speed limit is 40mph. As I was headed down towards the bridge the car behind me, that had tailgated me for a mile, shot around me and passed me, across the double yellow line, over a bridge, towards a blind turn.

    Every day I have to merge on I66 W coming from work, where generally most people accept the traffic and let people merge easily, making for a somewhat quick traffic pattern all things considered. Every once in a while you have an asshole think they are special and tailgate the person in front forcing the merging traffic to wait a few extra seconds, slowing them down, and confusing everyone else so now you have a backup filled with stagnant traffic.

    I have experienced the fact that at 70 MPH you suffer diminishing returns, meaning that to go a hour trip or 30miles? if you go faster than 70 you only get back a few minutes, slower than 70 you only add a couple of minutes, but the ability to avoid collisions greatly improves from 70 to 0.

    I drive an acura tsx 6 speed manual with an i-vtec engine with 201 ghp with exeptional maneuverability and acceleration. I take great pride in my car and love it to death. I rarely am a victim of road rage or rudeness while driving.

    I attribute my calm expected well defined driving manner not soley to my awesome personality but to the fact that I understand that an hour trip is an hour trip, and if I shave off 5 minutes I do not realy gain anything except waisted fuel. I drive a very nice car that I enjoy driving and it has the capability to – leave asshole MF’s eating my tailpipe exhaust. So I guess if you drive a car you realy enjoy driving you spend more time enjoying the drive and less time being a prick.

    Of course shit drivers are shit drivers.

  8. Moments of clarity such as was described above tend to be fleeting and even where they are understood for what they are they often get forgotten in the distractions of the rest of life.
    This next bit will make not being a jerk seem a lot harder for anyone that doesn’t grasp this lesson strongly though: The true measure of someone being a jerk is subjective, in the eyes and expectations of those we interact with. It isn’t always enough to just not be the kind of jerk that would piss ourselves off, others have different standards. The flip-side to that is that when we better understand those we interact with we don’t have to worry about things that actually wouldn’t bother them so much. This second part is at least as hard but also as least as rewarding as the first lesson.

  9. And people wonder why we don’t have flying cars yet. Might be safer to install steering wheels on SCUD missles.