ROAD-RAGE: often wrong, always ugly
Driving brings out the worst in people.
Is that a bit over the top?
Yeah, I suppose it is.
What I really think is that driving brings out a few not-so-nice qualities in some people.
So, if I were just shooting for accuracy here, that first sentence would be unacceptable.
As it turns out, that’s not my only objective today, so I’m going to stick with it because it leads into my topic for the day… the tendency many of us have to exaggerate and generalise.
I often overreact to what I see as the faults of other drivers, so I’m writing this piece for my own benefit as well as to aid any of you who may have similar problems.
I know I am not alone here.
I mean, even my yoga teacher suffers from this one, and she has been trained to stay calm.
As a matter of fact, my spiritual mentor provided an excellent example of what I’m talking about before our last class when she complained about British drivers in general.
Then she explained one of them had just tailgated her for a kilometre on the way over.
He had his arm out the window with the middle finger extended and she could see in her mirror that he was shouting at her with his face twisted into a nasty grimace.
She was very upset.
Evidently, the driver thought she had cut him off at a traffic circle.
I know the circle well; it is very poorly designed, and he was probably in the wrong, but one thing is for certain, both drivers suffered from his reaction.
Interestingly, though, when we talked about the incident later, we both realised that the vast majority of drivers we encounter are well behaved and courteous.
The exceptions, however, make a much greater impression.
I’ve driven in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the USA and the UK and it has been the same in all those places.
My teacher said she drove to class through rush hour traffic and encountered hundreds of cars and drivers along the way, and finger man was the only aggressive or poorly behaved one she could remember.
If the number of cars was 200, and it could have been more, then only one half of one percent of the drivers she met were jerks.
Unfortunately, our tendency to generalise and exaggerate the less desirable characteristics of a group of people is not limited to road users.
Men do it about women; women do it about men; and we all do it about people from other countries and people who have different accents or skin colours.
What I really mean is that some men and some women concentrate on the others’ faults and some people still discriminate against people who are not the same as them.
The good news is that I think things are improving on all those scores.
For that to continue, though, more of us need to stop ignoring the facts.
In other words, we need to step back and see the bigger picture instead of just allowing the worst of ourselves react to things we do not like.