Can I Have My Head Back Now?

What happened to manners?

Monday morning I made a mistake — lulled into a twisted reality by two weeks of summer vacation, I tried to get on highway 85 at 7:45 a.m.

A quarter of an hour later, as I followed the line of cars trying to make the interchange from 17 to 85, a nicely made-up woman pulled up beside me and screamed “ARE YOU F***ING STUPID?!!! ARE YOU F***ING STUPID?!!!” before tearing off towards Santa Cruz.

“ARE YOU F***ING STUPID?!!!” I can still see her lipsticked mouth curling around those words, her brows pinched and crumpled together, her dramatically outlined eyes spitting poison through both our windshields.

Do you think it’s acceptable to rip into people this way?

I have been angry at other drivers myself, usually when they make a move that causes me to fear for my or someone else’s safety. This leads me to believe that I frightened this woman, or perhaps slowed her down when she was late for something important. If I hadn’t been so shocked, I probably would have apologized. But I think her reaction was way out of scale. I mean, the volume. The language. I don’t think it was good for her blood pressure. She might want to learn the trick of counting to 10 when she’s angry.

I also think she needs to learn to use her “inside voice.” True, she was “using her words,” but from the look on her face, I’m not too sure she would have if we had not been on a freeway on/off ramp.

I’ve been known to mutter “hel-looo” when someone cuts me off on the freeway. But blowing my top at the waiter who brings me an overdressed salad? Lambasting the unsuspecting customer service representative who picks up after I’ve waded through 25 minutes of phone tree torture? Howling at the guy who looks the other way while his Doberman poops in front of the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company? That’s just uncouth.

What do you think? Is it okay scream and swear at people who irritate you?

Jim Thrall June 28, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Great column, Dyan. It always says much more about the person who overreacts to a situation than about the situation and target themselves. Outbursts and overreactions tend to reveal insecurity, anger, and other problems within that person. We need to teach out kids healthy ways to relieve frustration, surprise and even anger lest they follow the poor examples set by so many adults in our community. Be aware that we all influence others with our behavior - especially when in public. Escalation doesn't usually help the situation. Being calm and allowing the other person an out -- either fix the problem or sincerely apologize once their error has been identified and recognized -- is a skill that we can all practice and teach.
Carrie Vawter-Yousfi June 28, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Thanks for making light of a not "cool" situation. It's not acceptable for her to yell & scream. I hope the kids weren't with you. I think we can all be reminded to lighten up and admit when we make mistakes. Peace, Coach Carrie
Larry Arzie June 28, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Not everyone is as civilized as you. This women imprinted something you won't easily forget. A quick putting of the hands together as in prayer is the normal response while driving for I am sorry. But it sounds like you didn't have a chance.
Dyan Chan June 28, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Thank you, Jim. One late night or early morning many, many years ago, I was driving home on wet streets on a pseudo-freeway in Fremont, where I grew up. There was only one other car on the road, and the other driver probably didn't see me because he swerved into my lane, causing me to slam on my brakes. Luckily, my car only fishtailed a tiny bit before I pulled to a stop at the light with my heart racing and angry thoughts rushing into my head. When I chanced to look over at the other driver, he was elaborately pantomiming an earnest apology. I couldn't help but smile and immediately forgave him.
Dyan Chan June 28, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Thank you for commenting, Larry. Yes, I certainly would have apologized if I'd had the chance ... although this time I actually hadn't realized I was doing something wrong. After I calmed down, I thought about what I had probably done to upset her. It was also a good reminder to me regarding disciplining my kids, too -- it really is very hard to be self-reflective and come up with solutions when you're being attacked.
Dyan Chan June 28, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Yes, I'm glad the kids weren't with me! Thank you for reading and commenting, Carrie.
Sunshine June 28, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I tried to leave a comment ( big long rant actually) but was re-directed. Ugh.
Dyan Chan June 28, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Hi Sunshine, I'm so sorry! This one made it through ... if you send me your comment, I'll post it! Thanks for trying!
Jesse Ducker June 29, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I had to deal with a similar situation a few weeks back. Yes, being in traffic makes people irritable, but if you're old enough to drive a car, you're old enough to know how to act like an adult.
Brian Hickman July 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM
In situations like that, I refrain from responding in kind by thinking about how miserable their life must be. Anyone who would do that has such poor coping skills that their personal lives must be a shambles. Pity them. Hope they get help. Let it slide off your back.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) July 03, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I agree with Brian or as an old dear colleague used to say, 'Do not initiate dialogue,' and 'Bless those who curse you.'
Dyan Chan July 31, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Thank you, Jesse and Brian, and thank you to all the folks who commented to me via email or in person. It seems like most people have dealt with similar situations. Sad state of affairs! A few people also fessed up to being in the other woman's shoes before. As for me, I have a little PTSD; whenever I get on highway 85 now, I notice my palms get a little sweaty ...
Daniel Anderson August 14, 2012 at 04:00 AM
The introduction makes for hilarious reading, though it would be hardly so had I gone through the same myself. You are right, she did overstep her line, and if anything, this entire incident only serves to put her in a bad night. No matter what the annoyance is, belting expletives at a stranger is simply unacceptable.
Dyan Chan August 16, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Thank you for the support, Daniel!


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