A few weeks ago, I was following a co-worker to happy hour. He’s not very good to follow, and kind of swerved at the last minute into a lane. I put on my turn signal, checked my blind spot and got into the next lane too. Suddenly, I heard a fit of honking and a guy got out of a black prius behind me and walked up to my window screaming at me. My chest beating rapidly, I still got out my phone, dialed 911 and showed him the number through the window, my finger poised over “send.” What I didn’t see happening (but my coworker did) was the patented NY car move for people incapable of having someone in front of them. Someone signal so they can get in your lane? Drive into their blind spot and honk furiously. Except, I didn’t see him drive into my blind spot, I just changed lanes. Apparently upset that his trick didn’t work, he unloaded some road rage at me.
I bring this up because it just happened again. I was at an intersection turning left, my blinker clearly on in a one-lane road. The car behind me kept honking furiously (like I could do anything about oncoming traffic). Then, as I turned left, a pedestrian darted out, so I stopped, and got honked at again (repeatedly. What was I supposed to do, run them over)? So, I flipped the guy off, like, stop honking at me, jackass.
(Now, at this point of the story all of you are saying, “You shouldn’t have done that!” But really, people give the bird all the time here. It’s practically a greeting. I can’t tell you the number of times this month someone has honked at me for no reason or flipped me off. I let it go with an eye roll.)
He’s following my bumper, so I pull over and he gets out of his truck, as I frantically fish for my phone. Unable to find it as this (easily 250 pound) guy angrily gestures at my car, I lay on the horn for at least a minute. Scared off by the sound, he gets back into his truck and drives off.
The first time I was followed and had someone stalk over to my car did not happen in NY, it happened in Arizona, when I was about 18. I was making a left turn, but not quickly enough for the guy behind me, so he turned left behind me as I was turning and almost got us both into an accident. I was so scared that I honked furiously at him. So, he followed me home, blocked me into my own driveway and waited in his car for me to get out. I was without a cell phone or any way of calling for help. I laid on the horn, hoping someone would come out. No one did (thanks, Mom and Rachel!), but I did spook him enough to leave.
In all these instances, these guys were wrong. You don’t drive into a person’s blind spot as they are about to change lanes. You don’t honk at someone who has the right of way for not running over pedestrians and you don’t try to cut someone off as they are making a left turn. I had the right of way, they did not. And yet, something in them said that it was okay to threaten and intimidate a 5’4″ woman for having the temerity to react to their rudeness. Rather than letting a small slight go, they used the threat of violence to put someone physically smaller and weaker in their place. What is wrong with these people? What is so threatening to their masculinity that they have to react like that? I would never try to threaten someone for reacting to something stupid I did on the road. I just don’t get it.
Fortunately, I am usually only intimidated once. After that, I react swiftly. After laying on the horn, I was ready with a cell phone to call the police. One thing I learned early – never react to violence with violence. React with “I will call the police on your ass and press charges.” That finishes a fight more surely than a punch ever could. I’m not playing around with any threats, so one thing is true: I am not the one they should pick to intimidate.
(And as for all of you – please don’t send me any stories about people getting shot because they honked at someone else or any crazy/stupid stories set to frighten me further. I’m not interested in hearing “OMG, be careful!!1!” multiple times. I am careful. It’s not my fault that people look to expend their rage on the vulnerable – it’s theirs. I could do nothing and the same thing would happen. Hell, I have done nothing at times, and stuff like this has happened. So, I’m really just going to live my life and react in the best possible way to sticky situations.)New York