Other than an accident I had just 11 days after my 16th birthday, I’ve racked up a pretty great driving record. Don’t get me wrong, that one accident was a doozy–three car pile-up that made the front page of the local newspaper (though, to be fair, there’s not a whole lot of other news in Holdrege, Nebraska). The story I wrote about it was even published as a full-page article in the Omaha World Herald my senior year of high school, and to this day, my dad still won’t let me live it down.
And yet, ever since, I’ve done pretty well behind the wheel. I obey traffic signals. I rarely drive more than 2-3 mph over the speed limit. I use my turn signals. And I routinely slow down to let other drivers merge or pull into traffic when I notice them waiting patiently for their turn.
I will admit, though, that moving back to Nebraska has done me some good. During the 9 years I spent living in New York, I developed quite a road rage problem. It’s not that the drivers in New York are bad (that title belongs to drivers in New Jersey and Texas). In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Driver’s in New York are actually seriously amazing at navigating the maze of roads and exits and road construction and commuter vehicles, all packed in like sardines doing 70 on the parkways and racing to beat the lights and avoid pedestrian traffic in the heart of Manhattan. It’s actually a freakin’ miracle that more people aren’t killed on New York roads.
The thing about New York that brings out the road rage in even the best of us is the fact that other drivers will call you out (with deafening bravado) for every idiot thing you do in traffic. Forget to signal a lane change? The guy behind you will lay on his horn for the next two exits. Accidentally cut in front of someone because they were lost in your blind spot? You can bet that guy will tailgate you for the next mile or two, gesticulating wildly and pointing out what an asshole you are to all the drivers around you. And should you get distracted and not notice that the light has turned green, you have about .03 seconds before 5 out of 7 cars behind you treat you to an impromptu symphony of blaring car horns.
In New York, the rage comes, not from the fact that there are an overabundance of bad drivers on the road, but from the fact that you are suddenly made aware of what a shitty and oblivious driver you are.
It’s never fun to realize that you’re the problem, and so the embarrassment turns to rage. And while my time in New York ultimately made me a better, and more conscientious driver, it also turned me into one of the loud, horn-abusing drivers for a brief period in my life.
You live, you learn, right?
This morning, we awoke and discovered Cosette taking a few driving lessons of her own, with Woody manning the controls. Cadence wasn’t impressed. She complained about the fact that the batteries in her My Little Pony car were now dead, and that Cosette was too big for the pony car. If that’s not a little of that New York attitude coming out in my child, I don’t know what is.
You better shape up, Cosette.