Recently, I made the brilliant life choice to move about 50 miles away from where I work. 50 miles! That means that there are now as many miles in my commute as there are United States and shades of grey.

It can be hard keeping myself awake during these commutes, especially when I’m driving home after a long day at work. I have, on more than one occasion, had to literally slap myself in order to stay awake.

It goes without saying that the commuting world is dangerous, even when you’re not falling asleep. Whether they realize it or not, people involuntary put themselves in the line of fire when they set out on their daily commute. I currently live in Utah, and people here are notoriously bad drivers. Because of the terrible driving I have to deal with on an almost-daily basis, I become a completely different person when I’m behind the wheel.

driving anxiety

One time I was on the on-ramp and had to merge onto the freeway. People here love to speed up when they see the turn signal start blinking on the car in the next lane. This is all well and good, and I’ve been known to do it in the past. (I don’t like people passing me for no reason, but I also don’t like when people drive too slowly in front of me. I believe that everybody else should adjust to my speed, which seems to me like a very reasonable expectation).  When it comes to merging on the freeway, however, you don’t really have much of a choice. As I merged, the driver behind me honked because I cut them off before they could pass me. My natural reaction was to wave and say, “Thank you!” Only I replaced “thank” with a slightly more colorful word, and instead of waving all five fingers, I only managed to get one finger up.

waving finger

No… not that finger.

hermioned judges you

I was shocked at myself. I’m not normally one to go around cussing at people and flipping them off, unless they’re close friends and they’ve earned that type of respect. In the 8th grade, I refused to read Of Mice and Men out loud because it had too many cuss words. And when I read the Bible as a kid, I would replace the word ass with donkey, even though everybody knows that you’re allowed–nay, obligated–to say cuss words when they’re written in the Bible (not to mention that ass in this case isn’t even a curse, but I didn’t understand that at the time). What would younger me have said if he had seen my road rage? He probably would have either gasped, cried, or tried to strangle me (I had a short fuse when I was little… probably because I didn’t have the option of channeling my anger through road rage).

gill first car

Younger me obviously could not have grasped the concept of road rage.

I decided at this moment that I did not like the person I became when I was behind the wheel… I loved him! He is so much bolder than regular me! And he doesn’t take crap from anyone. On the other hand, I know that road rage can escalate quickly if left unchecked, so I generally restrict it to silent glares of disdain.

glaring

There are probably deep, psychological reasons why we as humans are so prone to road rage. Perhaps we just need to be more easy-going, like this horse flipping a pancake while preparing breakfast for his cow and goat friends.

jacob

Do you think this horse would ever have any problems with road rage? No sir, he would not. Mostly because horses can’t drive cars. But also because horses are just super chill like that. I, on the other hand, am a naturally anxious person, and that anxiety is only exacerbated by the constant dangers of the open road. Such anxiety lays the foundation for road rage.

My anxiety makes me feel like everybody else on the road is an enemy, like that person who tried to block me from getting on the freeway. But it’s not just other people who are enemies. Even the signs are against me. That may seem like paranoid nonsense, but it’s true! I am referring here to variable-message signs–those electric signs you see on the freeway that display different messages depending on the day.

raptor

On the one hand, sometimes these signs can be amusing, even a nice distraction from the worries of everyday life. The signs often display downright sassy messages, such as the following:

  • It’s Columbus Day. Discover your turn signal. (The more historically accurate version of this message would read: It’s Columbus Day. Accidentally find a turn signal and kill the person who invented it. But I guess that wouldn’t exactly promote road safety).
  • Get your head out of your apps. (I get this message is telling drivers to stop using their phones, but is it supposed to be a play on another phrase? I feel like it is, but I can’t think of what that phrase might be. “Get your head out of your…” Something that rhymes with apps? What could that be? Wait… could it be…? Oh dear!

Other times these signs just inform you of upcoming accidents or delays, which is notably less amusing. When I see warnings like Congestion ahead: 10-minute delay, I find myself hoping that the people in charge of changing the sign are either misinformed or filthy, rotten liars.

lies

Unfortunately, the signs have yet to be proven wrong. Stupid signs!

But the worst is when the signs try to be encouraging and fail miserably, like those times when they displayed this message:

No fatalities on Utah roads in the past (insert number here) of 7 days.

That sign was just downright depressing. The number of days never went higher than three, and usually it was even lower than that. I would look at the sign, see No fatalities on Utah roads in the past 1 of 7 days, and think… Is that really something we should be proud of? Is that supposed to reassure me, a frequent driver, that I’m going to get home safely?

I am painfully aware of the dangers of driving. Not a week goes by where I don’t see the wreckage from some sort of accident on the side of the freeway. I don’t need sassy signs to remind me that every commute has the potential to turn into a death sentence.

And on that cheerful note, I bid you all farewell. Drive safe out there, everyone. And try not to get too angry!

dog driving

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