I’m not a confrontational person. You will never see me get in someone’s face and start a throwdown. I just don’t have that kind of personality.
While I have a keen BS-meter, it’s rare that I’ll call someone on it. I’ll smile and nod and let them think they’ve pulled one over on me — and then I’ll go on my merry way.
When I drive, I’m an assertive driver. Not aggressive, just assertive. When I used to teach horseback riding lessons, especially when teaching kids to jump, I’d always tell them to “commit to the fence.” If you’re going over a jump, you’re going over a jump. Once you’ve made the decision, there’s no time for wavering. The same holds true for driving: if I’m going to change lanes, I do it, I don’t dilly-dally about it. If I miss my turn, I go to the next one and turn around. When people are aggressive around me, I get the hell out of their way. Life’s too short to police the highway if you’re not an actual, ya’know, policeman.
On my drive to work, I exit the highway, go approximately half a mile to a U-turn area, and proceed to make a U-turn. This U-turn area is one lane, meaning only one person is supposed to make a U-turn at a time. Now, this U-turn area can also be used to turn left, so many times people will pull up next to me on my right, intending to go across the intersection, while I’m waiting to turn left into oncoming traffic.
Today, a man in a sedan cut inside me to my left. There was no road there — only grass and gravel. Clearly I wasn’t making the turn quickly enough for him. I drive a minivan, he was in a sedan. There was no way for him to see around me. When the traffic cleared and I started to pull out, he did the same.
I had no idea he was there.
I didn’t hit his vehicle, but it was really close. I had to swerve into the other lane. Oncoming traffic on this road is going approximately 50mph, so it’s not like I was turning left onto some tiny side street. His action could have caused a massive accident.
He was obviously furious that I chose to make the turn at the same time he did. I know this because he then hit his accelerator, swerved around my car, swerved in front of me, and crossed two lanes of traffic to make a left at the next intersection–which was also my turn.
This left me rather shaken. And I’m a pretty secure, solid driver.
I then proceeded to watch him run a stop sign to beat me through the intersection, then swerve around another driver who had the gall to make a signaled turn into an office complex.
He kept going up the hill, and at that point I knew, I knew he was going to my building. (We’re at the top of the hill.) Sure enough, he turned into the same parking lot where I park.
Through sheer irony, we pulled into the parking lot at the exact same time. I wasn’t even rushing, and I made it into the lobby before he did — despite the maniacal driving.
When I got into the lobby, there was a man and a woman waiting for the elevators. I saw my driver friend approaching the building, so I decided to wait. When the elevator came, the woman held the door for me, but I said, “Go ahead, I’m going to wait for this guy.”
She must have heard something in my voice, because she held the elevator anyway. (Honestly, I would have done the same thing. Show time!)
When the man entered the building, he was a big guy. He was wearing a polo shirt and khakis, but still a big guy. I’m not a small woman, and I’m also seven-and-a-half months pregnant, and he had at least 100 pounds on me, and a good foot in height.
He was on the phone. He tried to walk around me. He was very deliberately avoiding eye contact with me.
I stepped right in his path and said, “Why would you drive like that? I’m seven-and-a-half months pregnant. Why?”
He hesitated, just for a moment, like he couldn’t decide what to do.
So I asked him again, a little more forcefully. “Why would you drive like that? Why? Tell me?”
He gave me a rude gesture — not quite the finger — then turned around, ducked into the stairwell (which is open — no doorway), and sprinted up the stairs.
I was upset about this all morning. I worried that I should move my car. I worried that he’d be waiting in the stairwell with a knife this afternoon or something. I worried that he’d come after me.
But then, this afternoon, I realized something. He ran. From a big pregnant lady. He ran.
And I realized that this is how bullies have so much power. They’re used to people being afraid of them. They’re used to the impression of size and sheer badassness carrying them a long way. This guy probably drives like a dick every day, and no one gets in his face because he obviously has the size and demeanor to back it up.
Until you call him on it.
Now, looking back, I realized that my brain read the signals as soon as he came in the building. He could have made it into the lobby before I did, but he walked more slowly, probably hoping I’d be up the elevator before he came in. When he wouldn’t make eye contact with me, he didn’t want to have a confrontation. When he was in his car, he had a steel shield and the power of anonymity. In person, he was a scared little boy who’d been caught with his hand in the neighbor’s candy jar.
I didn’t scream at him. I didn’t get in his face. I didn’t even report him to building security, though I thought about it. I can guarantee you he’ll still drive like a moron.
But maybe he’ll think about it for half a second if he’s anywhere near a white minivan.