The Road Rage Story
In mid December three years ago, my daughter Delaney, who was then 13, and I were driving home and found ourselves on the receiving end of road rage. It was scary and awful and upsetting and unsettling. Last year, I discovered a writing exercise called Life in 10 Minutes. The rules are that you set a timer, hand write your story for 10 minutes only, type up what you wrote, and then edit for 10 minutes only. You can then submit the story to their website for publication. Here is my Life in 10 Minutes story about our road rage experience:
We’d just gotten frozen yogurt. Our treat. Our comfort food. I pulled out into busy, Christmas-time, evening traffic. He suddenly flashed in my rear view mirror and then shot around my car stopping at an angle in front of us, trapping us with his off kilter, middle-of-the road parking job in front, the median to the left, and a steady stream of traffic to the right. He leapt out of his older SUV looking disheveled with wild salt and pepper hair and a Hawaiian shirt stretched tight over his large belly, it’s cheerfulness in stark contrast to his hostile body language and hate-filled facial expression. I rolled down my window a couple of inches. “YOU ALMOST HIT ME. PULL OVER. I’M CALLING THE COPS. I GOT IT ALL ON DASH-CAM.” “No, I’m not going to do that,” I said calmly. I rolled up my widow, pulled around his car at my first opportunity, and set out on the 10 mile journey home. Is he following us? No, I think that’s a different car. No one would do that. I nervously drove, glancing frequently in the rear view mirror, as my 13 year old daughter cried and asked question after question. Why did he do that? Did you do something wrong? Is he on drugs, mom? I gave the best answers I could, our yogurt, uneaten, growing soupy in the little paper cups. As we pulled into my parent’s drive to pick up my younger daughter, I saw him park along the street. Now he has an address. I handed my cell phone to my daughter and told her to call 911 on speaker as I backed out and headed to the neighborhood fire station. When we parked, he pulled up tight behind us, pinning us in. According to the 911 dispatcher, I had committed a hit and run. A lie. I rolled down the window and called for help. Fire fighters were outside and approached as police rounded the corner having already been dispatched to my address by way of my license plate number. I told my story and he told his. I remained calm, articulate, and reasonable. I had no choice. My daughter was watching and listening. Vehicles were inspected. No damage. No surprise. His dash-cam footage was reviewed with no wrong-doing on my part discovered. “Go home, ma’am. He’s not dangerous. He’s just an idiot.” But how can I be sure? (Story originally published here.)
Because of the limitations of the writing exercise, some details were missing from the story. I’ll fill in a few you might be wondering about.
Traffic was heavy and I was waiting to turn right onto a busy two lane road. Both lanes were full. When an opening came up in the near lane, I turned onto the road. I think just as I did that, this guy decided to switch from the left lane into the same opening. He was behind me, but he was really close. His headlights filled my rear view mirror. When he got out of his car, I thought maybe something was wrong, like a flat tire or open gas cap. After I rolled down my window, I wished I hadn’t.
When he told me to pull over, I was thinking, “Are you kidding?! No way! There was no accident and he is obviously a loose cannon.” Delaney immediately began crying. She was so scared.
He followed us for about ten miles! At one point, I thought I saw him back there, but as we turned into our neighborhood, the vehicle behind me looked to Delaney like a pickup truck, so I thought I was just being paranoid. When I pulled into my parent’s driveway, my heart filled my mouth as I saw him pull along the road. My mind was spinning. I am so grateful the neighborhood has a fire station. I have no idea where the nearest police station is (something I always try to make a mental note of now). When the 911 operator answered, she was rude and accusatory from the start. He had called in first and played the victim. I couldn’t believe it!
As I drove to the station, she informed me of what I’d been accused of. Then, when I pulled into a spot and told her he had pinned me in, she said nothing. She had already decided who she believed. I saw some fire fighters a few car lengths away, so I opened my window and called out to them for help. The 911 officer yelled at me for raising my voice. “Ma’am. You are on the line with an officer of the law. Keep your voice down.” I thanked her for her help (eye roll) and hung up.
I was shaking and was a volatile combination of fear and anger, but I knew I had to hold it together. I explained the situation to the fire fighters, and they were kind and protective. They then spoke to him and got his “story.” The cops arrived and did the same. The officers delivered me a verbal message from the man. “Tell her to stop driving like an idiot.” Umm. What, now?
I explained that he had my parent’s address. The officers merely said we were both free to go. Why was he not detained for lying to the police? What was to keep him from continuing to follow me? I asked the officers for an escort back to my parents. They hesitantly agreed to it and sent the guy off down the hill away from the neighborhood first. But he still knew where the house was located. My only comfort was that now the whole story was in the system. But what was really on record?
I picked up Bailey and told my parents to watch for him. We headed home and settled our unnerved selves in. Then I saw headlights pulling up the driveway through the living room windows. I froze. At first I thought it was him, but it turned out to be my friend Brittney, bringing eggnog. She and her kids came in, sat, and listened to my whole frazzled story. Sometimes God puts the right people just where you need them, you know? We recently discussed this moment on her episode of my podcast. Years later, we both remember it in detail.
The Lessons Learned
We don’t discuss it much anymore, but it was a common thread with Delaney for at least a year. She processes verbally, so I knew it was on her mind. If she was that shaken by a relatively mild danger, how sad to think of kids who have regular chaos and fear in their lives. I do feel like she learned some good lessons which we discussed at length that night and in the days that followed.
- Never put yourself in a compromising situation just because some angered person instructs you to and seems authoritative. In the confines of legal behavior, always act to maintain your own safety when possible.
- When I feared I was being followed, I should have called 911 right away.
- Being respectful and remaining calm is the best way to behave even if you are afraid and being falsely accused.
- If you feel threatened, go straight to a fire station or police station for help while calling 911. If you don’t know where a station is, call 911 and head to a well-lit, public place.
- The truth will not always be told by everyone. You may have to stand your ground even when fingers are pointed at you.
- The world is not a fair place. Bad things do happen, and we can only control our responses to them.
- People in this world are hurting. When someone is willing to treat another person the way we were treated, we should remember that we don’t know their circumstances. On our way home, Delaney and I prayed for that man. We prayed for his heart and his soul to have peace and to know love.
Has anything like this happened to you? What would you have done?