Salt Lake City, UT – 1998
As my girlfriend and I drove down the street minding our own business, some asshole pulled up next to us in a truck. He sped up and slowed down next to us and swerved into our lane. He cackled hysterically and shouted taunts at us through our open windows. He was pointing at my hair and laughing like a hyena.
We had eaten McDonald’s for lunch and I tried to throw my drink at him, but I had to lean across my girlfriend to throw it out the passenger window. It hit his door but he kept laughing. I handed Jen a bag of trash and ordered her to throw it at him. She did and he batted it away, sending garbage tumbling all over the road. Still he laughed and pointed. By now I was pissed. I scoured my car for more stuff to throw.
Before long we approached a red stoplight. I pulled up to the light and stopped, and our foe pulled into the gas station on the corner. I looked behind me to check for traffic. Seeing that I had the street to myself, I backed up and pulled in to the same gas station. He was already pumping gas.
I screeched through the parking lot and pulled directly in front of him, blocking him in. I jumped out of my car and demanded to know what was so funny. He stared at me like a dear in the headlights. Again I demanded to know what he found so funny and again he stared speechless. “What did you expect?” I asked, “That you were just going to talk shit to me and I was going to drive away? What’s up now, bitch?!”
He froze unsure of how to respond and looked around for assistance. I ran at him throwing punches. He dodged around his car and I chased him. We ran around his car in circles for a full minute. I’m sure it was quite a spectacle, like some silly Abbot and Costello routine.
But shortly he opened his passenger door, reached into the backseat and pulled out a two year old kid. Now, holding his kid, he challenged me, “You would’t hit a guy holding a kid would you?” I was furious. “You had a kid in your car while you were talking shit to me?? Put your kid back in the car and accept what you have coming to you. I’m gonna beat your ass!” “Why? Why?” His knees trembled. I pounded on the hood of his truck for effect. But now we were drawing a crowd, and I definitely didn’t want to involve the kid.
We jumped back in the car and fled the scene. I couldn’t believe the cowardice of this man. Much worse, I couldn’t believe that a person with a kid would act this way. Why jeopardize the safety of your own child instigating violence with a stranger?
I encountered a similar situation much later in life – way too late to be responding to it in such an impetuous manner.
Not too long ago I was driving with my brother to the grocery store. As we headed down a two-lane street, the pickup truck next to us swerved into our lane. We were forced to slam on our brakes and swerve off the road. We looked on as the truck raced ahead weaving between cars, forcing another off the road. I would have let it go if it only affected me, but this person was endangering everyone. I felt the obligation to take action.
Or, as my shrink might say, I manufactured some justification to vent my hostility. I’m fine with it either way.
I raced ahead to catch up. We pulled up next to the driver. I honked and held up my hands in a “WTF?” gesture. The driver pointed at me and my brother, blew kisses at us, laughed in our faces, and flipped us off. He raced ahead and I gave chase. Now it was on.
When we pulled up next to him again, he hit his breaks and pulled into the nearest parking lot to let us pass, flipping us off as he turned. But with no one behind me I screeched to a halt and turned in right behind him. We began a low speed chase through the parking lot. I pulled along side of him and boxed him in; he had no where to go.
I jumped out of the car and my brother did the same. I figured this would go one of two ways: If this guy fancied himself a badass, we were going to fist fight right there in the parking lot of the pediatric insta-care. Or he was going to be a bitch, keep his door locked, and I’d just scream at him through his closed window until he managed to drive away.
Expecting it to be locked, I ran to the truck and yanked on the door handle. To my surprise it came right open. Inside was a quivering jelly of a man. He put his hands up to stop my attack and I grabbed him by the wrist. I cocked by hand to deck him in his face. But as soon as I had a clear shot, out of the corner of my eye I saw a two-year-old girl buckled into a car seat in the back. I couldn’t believe it.
“You ran me off the road and then taunted me, and you had a kid in the car the whole time?!” I roared. He was shaking so badly he could barely talk; “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” he stammered repeatedly. I questioned him more, “What kind of a person does that? Do you realized what could happen? It’s bad enough you’re an asshole, but you’re endangering your daughter!” “I know, I know.” he said. His daughter stared at me with wide eyes.
“Drive your punk bitch ass home right now and take care of your kid.” I instructed him before slamming his door. “OK, you’re right, you’re right.” he stuttered. We followed him out of the parking lot. He pulled into the next parking lot where he sat for twenty minutes. My brother and I got lunch at a nearby Wendy’s and kept our eye on him from a distance.
I felt guilty about what I had done for the rest of the day. All I could think was that I scared the little girl. I suppose her dad will just have to explain to her what happened. It’s shocking the nerve of some people. That a person would endanger others and insult strangers, all while in the company of their child, is beyond me.
I know how bad the outcome can be:
My old roommate Ben was once driving with all four of his kids in the car when he was cut off by another motorist. Like me, he gave the “WTF?” hand gesture. And again, like me, the man laughed and taunted him. Rather than let it go, he pursued in a high-speed chase.
Ben was a convicted felon who lived for violent conflict. When responsible adults say “be careful on the road; there’s a lot of crazies out there,” they are describing Ben.
He followed the driver into a parking lot where he pinned the man’s car against a wall with his own car. The driver got out and a fight ensued. Ben retrieved a baseball bat from his car. As his opponent lifted his hands to defend himself, Ben smashed him across the knees.
The man buckled over in the street. Realizing now that he was surrounded by witnesses who were calling the police from their cell phones, he jumped back in his car and raced away. The police pursued him. He ran as long as he could before he was arrested. His kids witnessed the entire scene.
He served some more jail time and paid his victim upward of $30,000 in restitution. Who knows what effect it had on his kids.
So what do we take away from all of this? Drive safely? Don’t start drama with your kids in the car? I don’t know. I’ll just end by saying be careful out there. The world is a dangerous place.