Something strange happens to certain people when they get behind the wheel of an automobile. They go from happy-go-lucky idiots, to angry idiots with a V-8 at their disposal, and that’s just among people I know.
It’s the people I don’t know who are really frightening.
The “road rage” thing has never really made much sense to me. While I can certainly understand the rage part at times, the idea of following someone around and trying to run them off the road, cause them to wreck or eject them from the passenger window just seems too extreme a punishment for poor driving.
Maybe my attitude is simply because most of my life I’ve driven what might be considered small, perhaps even ridiculous, vehicles. Certainly the VW bug with geometric designs on the side I drove in college wouldn’t frighten anyone. If it did they could simply go 47 miles per hour and leave me in the dust. I followed that up with a convertible Bug, so push that dust-leaving speed to 57.
My vehicle for the past 12 years — known respectfully as The Moon Buggy for its resemblance to something you might drive across the lunar surface while in search of Pampers and baby formula — isn’t likely to strike fear into the hearts of other drivers. Especially since it is a color the people at Honda call “Electron Blue.” It looks like clowns painted it, but sometimes the deal is too good to worry about such things, I suppose. A dozen years later that logic doesn’t seem quite as solid.
The Moon Buggy has certainly suffered its share of indignities over the years. Being neither fast, cool, dent-free or looking like Chuck Norris might be driving it, this Honda CRV does attract some road ragers. It may be an unexpected weakness in the breed.
Lagniappe’s web editor and reporter extraordinaire Gabe Tynes has more or less the same vehicle as mine, but in a much more environmentally friendly “Clover Green.” His is probably not street legal, however, as he has installed some kind of plastic wind guard on the hood, which is why we haven’t yet raced these bad boys down Dauphin Street at 2 a.m. to see which is faster.
Tynes recently regaled me with a tale of being chased through Midtown Mobile in his Clover Green Time Machine by an individual who didn’t like being passed on a residential street. It was no doubt a harrowing experience, especially if you remotely care about your suspension.
The Mobile area is especially rife with road rage because, well, to put it bluntly, we have a lot of dumb rednecks who live around here. Dumb rednecks account for the vast majority of road rage activity because they view their vehicles (especially rusty pick up trucks) as extensions of themselves.
Therefore, because their trucks are bigger than your car, they, by extension, are bigger than you. So a redneck who might not “bow up at you” in the mall because he’d end up hospitalized may try to kill you in his truck.
I lived in New Orleans when I was younger and was surprised at how relatively undeadly the road rage is there. Everyone — old ladies, kids and animals with middle fingers — shoot each other “the bird” if they don’t like something you’ve done. I remember as a child living there watching my father and another guy drive along flipping each other off in traffic. That exchange led my 5-year-old self to walk down to the neighbor’s house when we got home, knock on the door and flip the kid off. Welcome to New Orleans. It only turned out poorly because his mother had our phone number.
I’ll admit I got into it as well when I lived there as an adult. It was freeing to hang a bird out the window for any reason at all. It almost never escalated to the car chases and shootings we have here. I’m convinced at the heart of this is that all New Orleans residents are pretty sure the guy in the other car is an actual, for real, murderer. So road raging in the Big Easy was actually kind of fun.
But I took that free flying bird attitude back to Pascagoula when I moved back there many years ago and the first one I let loose got me chased all over town by a redneck in a crappy pickup with a 4-year-old in the front seat. By the time I pulled up at my office I was ready to kill him and let him know that as I beat on his window while he fished around in the glove compartment for something he would no doubt shoot or stab me with.
Thankfully he drove away first, or you wouldn’t be reading this and might be doing something constructive with your time. Let’s not let that happen.
It’s bad enough to be chased around town as a grown man, but when you have kids in the car that’s really overboard. I learned this as a child when some goon in an 18-wheeler kept trying to run our VW Camper (brand loyalty!!!) off the road in Florida. My old man finally backed him off by hanging a claw hammer out the window threatening to throw it through his windshield. Ingenious. I recommend always carrying a claw hammer — just in case!
My own kids got their first real taste of road rage on Mother’s Day as we headed back from Mississippi on I-10. Some goofball flew up and tailgated us, then suddenly jerked the car into the right lane and passed staring at us. I might have glared back a little and perhaps made a dumb face. Suddenly it was road rage city.
This fat oaf would get far in front of us, slow down and let us pass, then fly back by again and cut over, freaking the kids out. I eventually just didn’t pass the guy anymore, so he started throwing fast food trash out of the windows. For about 10 miles he tossed fast food bags, napkins and wrappers. His McDonald’s bag collection alone was astounding.
Eventually I showed the kids the proper way to handle such a situation by running him into a bridge support where he died in a fiery ball … wait, no. I actually called the police and gave them the license plate and description. Hopefully my children learned something and won’t turn into redneck road ragers themselves in a few years because of my upstanding behavior.
And maybe, just maybe, the hefty gentleman with 10 years worth of fast food bags in his car was pulled over by a law officer who explained the dangers of what he was doing. Perhaps that even got through to the guy and he felt badly about what he’d done.
But I like to think after all of that he mouthed off and got tased.
THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN
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