This morning, I finally lost it in my commute.
Growing up in the north country of New York north of the Adirondacks, I learned to drive where there were few cars. My father taught me to parallel park our farm pickup between two trees in the front yard because it was practically impossible to find a place to practice real parallel parking.
We used to practice responding to skidding on any old road with our driver's education teacher. We'd drive down the road, wait for no cars in the snow, and she'd press on the brakes on her side of the car and talk us through responding to a skid.
Where I grew up, people frequently wave you on if they thought you were in a hurry at a light or intersection. If you heard honking it was because someone was saying hello. On rare occasion, someone behind you would honk if you sat long enough at a green light. This only happened if you were there a while and was usually a friendly toot toot to get your attention.
I remember my mom, my dad, and my driver's education teacher loudly complaining when anyone was too aggressive with their driving or honking. They called them New York City Drivers. It's true.
Now, I'm living in Brooklyn. This morning I was running late because I was bringing a friend to an appointment at the hospital. For those who don't know me, I hate being late. Five minutes early feels like I'm on time. I was ready to go by 7:30 this morning and was encouraging the friend who was staying with me by 7:00 to start getting ready in order to leave at 8:30.
We made it to the car by 8:50. Although late, I knew it was better to take my time and not rush.
We pulled into traffic and up to a flashing yellow turn arrow. Traffic was heavy, and I waited for the right time to scoot between oncoming traffic to take my left turn. The old man behind me apparently felt that it was more important to either kill the pedestrians crossing in my turn path or risk getting t-boned by oncoming traffic than to wait for an appropriate opening. He honked three times in the 30 seconds I was waiting there. I know my car well and am not one who waits forever to turn. I also know that I'm not going to risk an accident just because of impatience.
Because he was so inconsiderate in his honking and I was feeling spiteful (not a way to be, but I'm being honest here), I drove only 20 miles per hour down the next road that was only one lane. The man who appeared to be driving his wife and had a long gray beard and hat on kept swerving behind me and honking as if my driving was going to change how fast he would get the extra 100 feet into traffic.
As we approached the next flashing yellow to enter a round about, two bikers biked into my path. I was late, and was only waiting long enough for me to get into the circle not any longer than I needed to. You'd think that me waiting and following the law was going to kill the man behind me the way he HOOOOONKKK, HOOOONK, HOOONNNKKed. I lost my temper and rolled down my window and flipped him off with a shaking fist after pointing at the cyclists.
Having a sick man in my car who was riding with me to the hospital for an appointment, I immediately felt guilty. This isn't me. This city is affecting me though. The other day, the people in traffic cutting me off and honking at me made me so frustrated that I just let out a primal scream in my car while driving. It relieved some tension.
So, if you happen upon me in my travels outside of the city in Rochester, Oneonta, the North Country, or any other place that is even slightly more civilized and I end up honking before lights turn green, tailgating you, or being aggressive in my driving, forgive me as I re-adjust to what normal polite people do in society. If you pull up next to me at a light, or any person for that matter at a light, and hear primal screaming at full volume, send some positive energy our way because we may have just driven out of the city for a break.