I debated about even posting this here, for obvious reasons once you read the body of the post. However, I think it’s an important topic, and it’s been on my mind since it happened a couple of days ago.
The other day, I had to pick something up at a store not directly in my neighborhood, but close by. Close enough to walk, actually, however I had a few other errands to run that I could not walk to, and it was quite chilly, so I opted to drive. This particular store does not have a parking lot, however there was ample street parking, and I was able to pull in to a spot across the street without parallel parking.
When I came out of the store, I saw a car parked very close to me – not exactly kissing my bumper, mind you, but closer than my comfort level is. It was one of those, “Well, this person is probably going to get a love tap as a result of this parking job.” In fact, had there not been a parking lot entrance behind this car, I would assume he or she had love-tapped me. Normally (i.e., in my neighborhood), this wouldn’t annoy me *that* much, but the lights were on and the car was running, so I could only assume the person was at the bank. The parking lot next to the car is for the bank!. Also, because not only was this person parked super close, but also I have trouble with night vision, and headlights directly in my rearview mirror were not going to help me.
Regardless, I was super careful – especially so, because I figured the owner was close by. True, I could have just waited five minutes for the person to leave, however I didn’t know for sure that he/she was at the bank (could have been in the store I was in, for example), or how long it would be. The car in front of me was actually a very large van – so, I had headlights to my rear, large van blocking visibility to the front. Not an ideal situation.
I don’t say this to make excuses, but merely to paint the scene. I don’t go around “love tapping” bumpers for the fun of it. Actually, I hate doing it. I always feel embarrassed and ashamed when it happens. However, sometimes, it simply cannot be avoided. Excessive love-tapping leads to wear-and-tear on the bumper, however if it’s only happened to you once, it won’t leave a mark. Once again, not making excuses.
Obviously, I tapped the car. And, actually, I barely tapped it, in part because I was being very careful and going slow, checking my mirrors for traffic, etc. However, that’s beside the point. I tapped the car. I admit it. And, to some, this in itself is a heinous offense.
So, almost immediately after (I hadn’t pulled out yet, obviously), I hear rapping on my window. At first, I thought it was someone who was just going to want to “make sure” there was nothing wrong, which is annoying but understandable. However, a split-second later, the woman starts SCREAMING and continually rapping on the window.
“YOU BANGED MY CAR! YOU BANGED MY CAR!” I think I remember an obscenity in there, however I really can’t be sure, so I don’t want to quote that. Let’s just say, the volume and tone would go along with an obscenity, even if there was not one.
This display did not make me want to get out of the car and talk to this woman. Even still, I didn’t want to ignore her, either. “I didn’t ‘bang’ your car, ma’am.” What I wanted to say was, “Yeah. I tapped it. Because you parked too close to me, when there’s a parking lot RIGHT THERE. I’m sorry I ‘tapped’ it, but I assure you there is no damage to either car, so please let me leave?” However, I didn’t get to do this. She continued to rap on my window screaming, “YOU BANGED MY CAR!!!!”
The woman was hysterical. I don’t know if she was dangerous or not, however the scene reminded me of those extreme road rage cases that you hear about. It was dark out, I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and I was a bit frightened. Looking back, I probably should have gotten out of the car and calmed her down, taken a look at her bumper, assured there was no damage, and apologized profusely. However, I was scared. I didn’t know this woman, she was acting irrationally, and I didn’t know what she was going to do. In all likelihood, probably nothing.
But I didn’t want to take that chance.
I think we’ve all found ourselves in situations on the road where we’re irrationally angry at another driver. Perhaps it’s warranted, but that does not change the fact that it’s irrational. It isn’t until you are on the receiving end of such actions that you really see how unsettling it is.
I spent the entire drive to my next stop on edge. The wind rattled my window, and I jumped. I kept checking my rearview mirror to see if she was behind me, ready to run me off the road or something. There, now I was being irrational as well, I told myself. I did calm down after a few minutes, however the memory sticks with me. I keep wondering, should I handled this differently? Maybe I should have done a, b, or c?
Instead, what I should be thinking about is what I’ve learned from this experience. Aggressive tactics aren’t going to get your point across, but rather put people on the defensive, so they won’t listen to you at all.