So leave it to me to be happy about a road rage incident.
Believe me, it’s nothing to be happy about. Looking back, just a few days after the event, I can see all of the ways it could have gone terribly, terribly wrong. People get shot over less than what transpired between me and the awful man in the hunter green truck with a cab on the back. So yes….when I really, truly consider what went down, I am not happy at all; instead, I am terrified and feel incredibly stupid. But in the moment—in the heat of the instance, I was bracing for what I thought was inevitable, what I thought I knew to be true. And when it didn’t happen, when what I assumed was the given course of events didn’t transpire, I was, simply, ecstatic.
Allow me to explain.
I was one hundred percent in the wrong. I was making an illegal turn and the guy in front of me cut me off through no fault of his own. I find it curious that he first blared his horn at me; it’s not like I did anything to impede his movement. I guess he was just mad that I was making a wrong maneuver. Well of course, when he honked his horn, I lay on mine indignantly. That’s just what you do, right? You can’t take that stuff lying down! I gave my meanest scowl and honked back. He gave me the finger. I gave it right back. And so on it went.
And then he stopped his car.
And then he got out.
Now, this is where I was really stupid. I’m in the news business, after all; I know how these things can go. He was angrily approaching my car. His face was beet red. He looked like he was spitting nails. He was yelling before he even reached me. I sat, in shock, with what I imagine was a goofy grin on my face. Was I trying to look amused? Did my face betray my true feelings of fear and worry? I’m not really sure, because it was at this point that I was already bracing for what I thought was written in stone, gonna happen no matter what else happened.
He called me bitch. He called me stupid. I held my breath. I waited…almost willed it to come.
I was shocked when he ended his diatribe without uttering the one word I would have bet my life would leave his lips; the word that I’ve heard in almost every negative, confrontational part of my life. I’ve heard it on the school yard and I’ve heard it in my own house. I’ve heard men, women, boys and girls of all ages call me the name; I’d even been known to give myself the insult. As I watched his retreating back stomp his way back into his little green truck and drive off, I finally noticed that my heart was pounding through my chest. I took a deep breath…and then I let the biggest smile spread across my face.
He didn’t call me fat. He didn’t scream “Fat bitch!” He didn’t threaten to kick my “Fat ass!” For once, that wasn’t the default put down. For the first time in a very long time, it wasn’t a word that automatically occurred to someone when they looked at me.
What happened that day was terrifying. I could have gotten hurt. I should have driven away—I should have not let him scream at me like that, to threaten me. But I swear, I was frozen in place. It was almost as if I was willing him to call me the familiar name—like I needed some assurance that I know what to expect. And yes, while I am happy that it is no longer the automatic response….while I am thrilled to have seemingly left that category behind, I can’t help but be a bit sad that that is what I assume will happen. And at some point, I convinced myself that it was what I deserve.
I never want to feel that way again.