This morning, I got 'road raged'. I'd pulled out of a stoplight behind a worktruck who slowed down, so I glanced in the mirror and dodged into the lane to the left behind some sort of church bus, was able to see that the work truck had slowed down because there was a city truck of some sort parked partway into the street in the right lane, then pulled back into the right lane ahead of the work truck, and started speeding up to get fast enough to get through the next light ahead, since I knew the timing would usually catch you if you were too slow.
Suddenly, on my left, a silver compact car of some sort whipped past me, which had me thinking 'geeze, he's in a hurry.' Except he wasn't, because he then whipped back into my lane and slammed on his brakes. Luckily, my reflexes are ok, so I started to swerve back out into the left lane, assuming he'd just realized he needed to turn right really quickly. He swerved in front of me again, and pumped his brakes. No matter which lane I tried to get in, he swerved ahead of me, and seemed to be trying to get me to run into the back of him.
I checked my rearview mirror quickly to make sure all of this swerving wasn't going to cause someone behind us to hit me, but the other cars were safely back. At this point I made my first longer-lasting assumption: That he was either a lunatic or someone trying to run an insurance scam of some point, by getting people to rear-end him. I faked as if I was going to turn down a road to the right, and he took the bait and swerved around the corner ahead of me, so I kept going straight, and sped up a bit to get away from this 'lunatic'.
He turned around quickly and sped up to follow me.
I was able to keep moving for quite a way while keeping just behind another car, so that he couldn't get ahead of me to try and cut me off again, all the while wondering what the hell was wrong with him. Unfortunately, as I got to another major intersection, I got caught by the light.
He got out of his car, stomped up, and pounded on the driver's window, so I cracked it maybe 4 inches, at which point he shook a fist at me, and shouted 'You ran me off the road!' Ok, suddenly, everything made at least a bit more sense, although I still didn't know exactly how, although based upon the point at which he started trying to stop me made me assume it was something that happened as I was passing the work truck, although I still have no idea exactly where he was in relation to my car, and whether I'd cut him off without realizing it, and he'd swerved 'off the road' to avoid rear-ending me, or if I'd just started driving into a lane as he was speeding up to pass me or what.
I stammered out 'I didn't see you...' "BULLSHIT!" 'until you started driving like a maniac in front of me.' "BULLSHIT!" 'I didn't see you!' "You didn't even acknowledge me! This is your fucking mirror, use it!" He started storming back to his car, and I assumed the incident was over, and took a deep breath. I think, though, that he just realized the light was changing, because damned if he didn't keep following me. At this point, I was getting in the turn lane to get onto an interstate, and realized that if he was going to start playing 'try to get him to rear-end me' again, I didn't want to be doing that in interstate traffic.
So I pulled off on the berm beside the road, figuring he was going to pull over, get out, and start screaming at me again. He pulled ahead, still in the turn lane, and a couple of other cars passed me without him bothering to pull off, though. So I waited til it was clear, then got back out on the road and passed the highway, pulling off into a pharmacy parking lot and going inside the pharmacy.
Called my Dad, told him what happened, asked for the city police phone number. Got their number, told them what happened (from my viewpoint, obviously) and was told that as there was no collision/wreck, I would not be considered to have 'left the scene', but that what the other fellow had done was a criminal offense. I didn't think to get HIS plates, though, so they had nothing to go on. My blood pressure and pulse were sky high, but I went back out on the interstate and drove down to get to my clinicals.
My Dad called back while I was driving, luckily just before the one rest area along my path, so I pulled over into the rest area, called him back, then went to take off again, and spotted a sheriff's car parked there. I still was worried that it might be considered 'leaving the scene' since I wasn't sure if the dispatchers were actually police, so I went over and laid it out before him.
Again, he said there was no 'scene' without an actually wreck or collision, but told me that what I should have done, as soon as the other driver pulled in front of me and started swerving around and braking was to pull out the cell phone and call the police right then.
So what were the 'dangerous assumptions'? A couple on the part of the other driver, one on mine.
On his part, he assumed for some reason that I'd either seen him, and didn't give a damn, and had maneuvered my car to 'run him off the road' on purpose, or that I simply was incredibly careless. He then also assumed that the 'best thing to do' was to go vigilante and take matters into his own hands, rather than to simply pull in behind me, get my plate number, and report ME to the police. On my part, it was to assuming he was just some lunatic, and NOT to call the police when he started using his car as a weapon and deliberately endangering himself, me, and anyone else on the road around us.
I still am not sure what he meant by 'You didn't even acknowledge me.' If he meant while he was busy trying to get me to rear end him with his swerving and braking, no, I was too busy trying to avoid causing the accident it seemed he wanted to cause to pay attention looking at his face. If he meant after, while I was driving along with him following me, again, no, I was trying not to look at him because I was trying to spot a police car somewhere, so I could get protection from someone acting irrationally and who seemed to be a serious threat.
At any rate - Don't be that guy. If someone cuts you off, or starts to come into your lane so that you have to swerve out to avoid them, don't automatically assume they meant to cause you aggravation or were trying to wreck you, or were doing it 'for kicks'. Chances are, they, like me, never even saw you, and wouldn't have just done whatever it was they did if they knew you were there. I certainly wasn't trying to run into that guy - an accident is the last thing I need, and I don't get my kicks out of trying to cause accidents for other people either.
So don't decide you're in the 'Bourne Supremacy' and that the 'best thing to do' is to use your car as a dangerous weapon in some vigilante crusade to harass the other guy. If he (like me) did something dangerous, get his license plates and call the cops. Don't go out and commit criminal activities yourself. If he did take my plates down, and his insurance does try to come after me if their were any damages to the undercarriage of his car from going 'off the road', I'll be able to hand over his info to the police, and he can face criminal charges for reckless driving, criminal endangerment, and 'road rage'. No matter what Republicans and Libertarians might want, we're not actually back in the 'Wild West' where the solution to every problem is 'take it into your own hands'.
Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM PT: As a further note, I apparently caught a stomach virus that same day, and the weird mix of symptoms led to me spending two days in the hospital being checked out for a possible heart attack, but it seems to have just been stress, dehydration, and newly diagnosed hypertension.