I like to think that I'm a fairly even-tempered person. I don't yell, even if someone has made oatmeal for the cat in my towel drawer or when someone maybe shoves a tampon in my nose when I'm sleeping. When confronted with the Queen of Bitchy (see previous post) I merely offer what she is asking for but no yelling, OK maybe a bit of eye-rolling but I don't think that counts as anger.
But put me behind the wheel and I become my father.
When my older sister was 3, my father was bringing her home from the park. He tried to make a light but it turned red just before he reached it and there was a cop there so, he stopped. Hard. From the back seat came my sister "Stupid-ass woman" as that was my father's favored response to what he felt was other's bad driving. Now, my father found this hysterical and made the colossal mistake of telling my mother.
Despite the verbal lashing, his driving like a lunatic remained. As did the insults. I learned that 'prick' was a bad word when I was 4 and I repeated it after my dad cut off some guy who in turn gave him the finger.
He tailgates all. the. time. And speeds. Following him is a nightmare. Because if you don't keep up with him doing 90 down the highway? He will call you, while he's doing 90 down the highway, and ask what's the matter.
When we mention his driving in terms of "oh hell no I am not getting in that car with him" or "No, Girl doesn't want to ride with you" he gets defensive and claims to have never had an accident. Which may be true. If you don't count scratching other's vehicles when trying to pass them or that time he took off someone's mirror trying to take a turn over a median.
Knowing this, knowing that the man who taught me to drive (and clung to the seat belt while I did 10 mph down the road because he wouldn't let me do the posted 25 I might add), the man I regularly rode along with has this intense road rage issue, I should know better.
But I don't. I find myself getting antsy behind the wheel. Impatient. Frustrated when the guy in front of me is doing 25 in a 25 when he could be getting away with doing 30. Pissy when someone is doing 60 in the passing lane of the freeway even though the lane beside them is totally open and they could get over. Irate when the guy behind me starts riding my bumper (even though I do it too) that I start tapping my brakes, almost begging him to hit me. Angry when the guy in front of me stops at the yield sign because there is a car 2 minutes away.
I feel myself getting angry, my feet tapping, my hands gripping the wheel until they hurt.
Then I notice the little sticker in their back window.
*Road Rage Killed Our Angel ____________*
And I feel shamed. I remember when it happened. I remember seeing her picture and thinking how beautiful she was and how I cried for her mom. She was going to a prom after party with her date. Two cars around them had been racing each other in traffic, cutting each other off, swerving. One car passed them on the left, heading into on-coming traffic. He swerved back into the lane and hit her car. He came out without a scratch. She died. 17 and gone.
What am I doing? I feel my eyes well up. I breathe deep and sit back.
I hate how I feel when I drive. I hate being angry. I hate being that driver.
It's something I've been working on. It takes a conscious effort, being aware of my temper. Reminding myself that being home 2 minutes later doesn't matter so long as I get home. Reminding myself that my kids trust me. Deep breathing.
It doesn't always work. The kids start fighting and I just want to get home and the guy in front of me is taking his sweet time and I want to explode, just get out of the car and push his foot down on the gas pedal because I can'timaginehavingtosithereonemoredamnminuteAAAAHHHH!!!
My knuckles are white on the wheel.
My heart is racing.
My face feels hot.
My jaw is clenched and my teeth hurt.
It's making me tired.
I open the window and take a deep breath.
"Kids. Zip it."
My tone brooks no argument and they settle.
I tell myself to calm down and relax my jaw.
Sometimes I fail miserably.
This guy has been sitting in the passing lane for 5 minutes and there is no reason too. getovergetovergetovergetovergetovergetover.....
But he won't. I sigh and whip around him, speeding up and pulling in front of him hoping he catches the not so subtle hint.
But really, who's the real asshole?
I have to say, this must be the hardest thing I've ever tried to change. I quit smoking 3 1/2 years ago. I've limited my swearing to not in front of the kids (except, sadly, when I'm driving). I've become a morning person (or at least enough of one to be able to put together a few semi-coherent thoughts). But this?
This is something I desperately want to change and am finding it very difficult.
Do you feel that? When you slide in behind that wheel, do you get tense? Aggressive? Frustrated and impatient?
What are your tactics for overcoming bad habits? How do you change the things that you don't like about yourself?