It was December 23rd. Gary and I drove in separate cars to Pittsburgh International Airport to have room for our kids and their stuff.
Halfway there, the “grumpy hungries” attacked. My dashboard clock read 2:30 PM.
My stomach growled, “You skipped breakfast and lunch. Feed me!”
I took the next exit and followed the vehicle in front of me as it turned left into a fast-food drive-thru lane. I pulled behind her as she placed her order and saw a car fly around the corner of the restaurant and speed toward me.
The driver skidded to a halt just before his front end would have bounced off my driver’s side rear door.
I said to myself, “Self, what is the deal with this guy?”
That’s when I noticed another entrance up ahead and a small sign that read “Drive-thru.”
Mr. Angry was obviously infuriated with Ms. Hangry who had, mistakenly, missed the correct entrance and therefore wound up in front of him in line.
This is not the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of rage from another driver.
I’ve had horns blast behind me when I’ve missed a light change. I’m guilty of using my car’s horn for the same thing, but I always aim for a gentle, non-threatening “beep.’
Occasionally, I fail to notice another vehicle coming up behind me when I’m in the passing lane. The other driver blinks his lights and speeds by. He or she never—as in ever—smiles.
Yes, I have been the victim of road rage, but this was my first go-round with drive-thru rage.
Mr. Angry slowly inched his vehicle forward, ever closer to mine. I doubt one could have wedged a crushed soda can between his bumper and my door.
I didn’t have to look over my shoulder to feel his wrath. I didn’t glance his direction—no way was I giving him the gratification of seeing me react to the unkind gestures I’m certain he added to his fury.
In hindsight, I guess I could have pulled my car out of line altogether, but maybe not. So close was the other vehicle that my car’s back end may have clipped his front as I made my escape.
Instead, I pretended to ignore this grinch in the drive-thru only two days before Christmas. No more than two minutes passed before I eased my car forward and placed my order.
I drove up to the window and heard myself say, “I want to pay for the person behind me as well. Tell him, I said, ‘Merry Christmas’.”
Before you start thinking I’ve got my eye on sainthood, you need to know that my words were impulsive—spur of the moment in the most literal sense of the definition.
The real me wanted to give the guy the “what for,” tell him to take a “chill pill,” ask him if he was Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way) in disguise. That’s what the real me wanted to do, but she didn’t.
My plan had been simple: Pay, grab my sandwich, and flee. Instead, I paid for Mr. Angry’s order and mine and drove away—fast.
My reaction was not my own. It was what I call a God-thing. God inspired. The real miracle is that I must have listened.
Now, weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. My usual reaction to rage directed at me is, well, rage.
What would happen if I could think to turn the tables more often—find a positive tangible reaction to extremely negative aggression?
I’ll never know how the guy responded. Maybe he said, “She should have paid for my lunch.”
Or maybe, just maybe, he remembered there are bigger travesties in this world than someone skipping ahead in the drive-thru.