March 07, 2005

A Driving Force?

Road rage is not a healthy activity. People handle roadway aggression in many different ways. Passing on the right is one method. Slamming on the brakes so that a tailgater practically kisses your rear bumper is another. There’s the ever effective and magical finger-bullet, and there’s swearing out the window. My personal favorite would be to take them off the line from a red light leaving a trail of dust. No matter which method you apply, unless you can come away from it with a sense of “Yes! I win!” it’s hardly worth it.

Unless you live in an extremely rural farming area, road rage can also be downright dangerous. Admittedly, there was a time when I was quite aggressive on the roadways. I rarely am anymore, though I’m not sure if this is simply due to aging 20 years since my city life or because I find it rather futile to flip off a cow in the road. In any case, my anger seems to have curbed itself.

While still living on Staten Island, I witnessed an incidence of road rage that went terribly wrong. Though I was merely a passenger in the vehicle, it left quite an impression on me.

My former husband EJ and I were driving along Seaside Boulevard one hot summer evening in an attempt to catch the cool ocean breeze while listening to some great tunes on the radio. Our mission was purely to chill out and enjoy an ice cream cone along the way. This road was never very crowded back then and it ran from the tip of South Beach clear to the end of Midland Beach. With the Verrazano Bridge as a backdrop and the lights of Coney Island far off in the distance, it was scenic and peaceful.

EJ was a former US Marine and pretty much unafraid of anything. He had a large stature and a deep voice, and could have been perceived as a threat just based on these features. The fact is, he was a mellow being who would sooner try to resolve than participate in violent activity.

Ed’s underpants must have been twisted that night, because as we approached a stop light and noticed a car full of vinnys* next to us, glances were exchanged and bad karma filled the air. The four boys were in their Chevy and we two in ours, and although neither was an impressive car with a worked motor, when EJ took off at the green light, I almost ended up in our back seat.

We were in the lead by about a full quarter panel when suddenly the vinnys pulled out ahead and swerved sharply sending us toward the curb. EJ taught me several colorful words while he righted our car from its fishtail motion and sped up to the tail end of the boys’ Chevy. They pulled over to the side and motioned for us to do the same. “Shit, here we go,” I thought to myself.

I got out of the car and stood by our hood listening to a loud exchange of adjectives between the guys. I was never concerned for EJ’s safety as, these kids were quite young, slightly built and barely over five feet five inches tall. Then I noticed one of them reaching into a pocket of his leather jacket. Before I could say a word, out it came. Pepper spray. Within seconds, he was emptying this canister directly into EJ’s eyes while the rest of them were hauling ass back into the car.

EJ was trying to reach out and grab at him, but to no avail; he was struggling just to stay on his feet. With all of them safely tucked inside, the car sped off and out of sight. I had to help EJ into our passenger seat as he nearly wretched several times. The skin on his face was raw and red and he was barely able to speak from the burning in his throat and eyes. This stuff does amazing things to the body.

I drove us to my parents’ house as it was fairly close by and back in those days, when anything went wrong, they could usually save the day. My mother spent about a half hour washing out EJ’s eyes as he sat there looking completely humiliated. I swear I think he would have preferred taking a bullet in the leg to being brought down by something as stupid as pepper spray.

Sure I got the license number from the vinny car, but what good would that have done? The simple fact is, the road rage went sour and now it was over. EJ had clearly lost.

I try hard now to keep this incident in mind when I see an opportunity to flip someone off or slam on my brakes, but oh baby, you don’t want to hear my thoughts. If thoughts could kill, I’d “win” every time!



*vinny(s) – a word used by Staten Islanders to describe anyone who came over from Brooklyn with slicked-back, darkly colored hair, a black leather jacket and a foul mouth and who makes a lot of noise as though they own the Island and everyone on it. The word is generally used in a derogatory manner, though not always.
Note careful use of a lower-case “v” to differentiate between the miscreants described above and anyone who happens to be named Vincent.

8 Comments:

Blogger Wally said...

Carol,

Pepper spray is some nasty suff, but it could have been a whole lot worse for, EJ. I have read many times about how road rage had caused someone to loose their life. There was an incident in our (little) town, where someone actually followed the person for miles, who had passed him on the right side. When they both ended up pulling over, a shooting occured. It turned out that the shooter was an ex-policeman who had shot his wife earlier that day. I guess you could say that the ex-cop decided to take his full rage out on the road. He was arrested soon after a witness called 911. Yeah, in my little town!

7:19 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hmmm... I somehow knew what you meant by Vinnies! Must be that Saturday Night Fever movie. Thats a heck of a story Carol, I'm glad no one was really hurt, that could have eneded in a different way...

I make it a point o not ever drive like that, and avoid it when I see it happening around here. And it does, all too often!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

I was actually quite relieved when you said pepper spray.Although that been said that stuff can be really nasty and burns like heck.I have a feeling if that story was present day those men might of whipped out a gun or a knife.Pretty scary world we live in when you can't even go out for a peaceful drive.
June

10:02 AM  
Blogger GeorgeMikey said...

that would have been one pair of pants that wouldn't have been going home if it had been me.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

I've found that a nice smile and friendly wave piss angry people off better than anything else.

2:12 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Carol,

Another good story, even though it is quite scary. I think I'll keep this in mind in the future when the road rage hits. Although I just swear in the car. I don't even look at the people when I do it.

Beth

3:19 PM  
Blogger Swifty said...

Occasionally, the news over here in the UK highlights frightening acts of road rage which leave you astonished at the lengths to which people will go to inflict 'punishment' on the alleged offender.

I bet you made sure you always drove after that, being the calm cool and collected gal you are. Thank God for meditation, eh? :-)

9:57 AM  
Blogger EDS said...

I would've rather the story ended with a vicious ass-kicking given by the ex-marine, but what can you do... maybe next time...

2:33 PM  

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