• Mark Crabtree

Lessons from a road rage experience September 14, 2015

How quickly that fight or flight adrenalin rush can cascade in to your car when you least expect it and before you know it things can get way out of hand. It just does not make sense; you’re a pillar of the community, you’re an intelligent, mature man with a loving family and yet in less than 10 seconds flat you can become an out of control, raging bull ready to trample over anyone. Does that ring any bells for anyone? However there is a simple solution to those anger monkeys that are beating a loud drum within your head. Here goes an example;

So this chap has finished a day’s work. He’s had a gut fall! Customers giving him grief down the phone, deadlines that will not be met and a boss laying all the blame at his door. To top it all off he’d agreed earlier to do a week’s food shop with his wife and young kids which he knew would be stressful especially as he was a little strapped for cash at that present time. The usual happened; his trolley became overflowing with essentials and non essentials coupled with sneaky items thrown in by his kids. At the till he just watched in silent misery as his balance to pay went up and up and up. He said nothing and handed over his plastic hoping it would authorise and that there would be no embarrassing face-saving comments; “I don’t understand it! I’ve just paid a large amount in to the account. There must be a mistake! Please try again”. It was a well-rehearsed, shallow, response to what was becoming a regular occurrence. After negotiating the maze of cars in the car park with action-heroes hanging off either side of the trolley our chap transfers his cargo in to his money pit of an unreliable people carrier. He heads for the crowded, bottlenecked exit that passes the supermarket’s filling station on the left. Our chap is not interested in topping up on fuel. He’s spent enough already! As he reaches the pedestrian crossing and mini-roundabout he finds himself blocking a white van that’s trying to exit the pumps. “Not my fault Pal”, he thinks to himself as he taps his steering wheel waiting for his turn ahead. He inches forward, slightly, which allows the blocked van to pull alongside him on the inside lane and that is when our chap’s fight or flight adrenalin kicked in. The white van man had lowered his window in order to exchange some expletives and grab our guy’s attention. Not satisfied with the lack of response he leans over and bangs the front passenger window where our chap’s wife is sitting. This certainly has our chap’s attention. Van man has his seatbelt off, ready for action and our chap rips his off and leans across his wife in order to match the potty mouth word for word. Here we go; here comes Michael Buffer’s coined phrase; “Let’s get ready to rumble...........” But something stops our chap. As he faces his nemesis he spots young children in the passenger seat, one is in a child’s seat whilst the other, a little girl, is in a booster seat. Van man insults again but our chap just looks at him for what appears an eternity before finally saying; “I’m ever so sorry buddy, I did not see you there, my gang, as his arm fans backwards, are a little bit rowdy”. Van man’s bottom jaw drops! This isn’t the response he was expecting as he was used to allowing his fists to do his talking for him. Van man could tell our chap was being sincere; no fear was visible in his eyes or burning anger to lash out at. Our chap just looked like he was pretty full up of stuff that was making his life challenging which kind of got van man thinking about his own daily grind problems. For one he had just shot off a load of expletives in front of his girls; that made him feel pretty lousy about himself. Finally the 2 chaps just looked at each other, shook their heads in bewilderment and both nodded acknowledging how foolish they were about to be.

The story finishes there with a positive response but as we all know it could have easily escalated but for one thought or phrase as I like to remind myself of daily: “A quiet word turns away wrath”. You try that in any given situation and you’ll find yourself diffusing the most difficult of circumstances you are faced with or at the very least it will make you stop and think that you are possibly one letter away from danger.

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