Fight or Flight ~

by Bella Rum

We drove up to our house yesterday. Everything is in order. The Husband blew leaves into the woods behind our house, and put a few Christmas decorations out so it looks like someone is still living there. I did a little cleaning inside and washed the sheets and towels we used when we were up there a few weeks ago.Then I picked up a book and relaxed.

As we were leaving Dad’s driveway to embark on our trip, The Brother was leaving his driveway, which is next to Dad’s. (I was behind the wheel) He rolled down his window, admonishing me to drive carefully, and reminding me that this was a big weekend for state troupers. He was alluding to my love of driving fast. He’s only jealous because he also loves to drive fast; there’s one big difference between us though. He seems to get all of the speeding tickets and I rarely get caught. Jealous! That’s the way I see it.

The drive up and back is another story all together. Traffic! What did I expect? It’s Thanksgiving weekend. There is a phenomenon that I’ve noticed over the years, and I have to point it out. I’ve been driving for over forty years. That’s long enough to notice trends, or significant changes in the habits of my fellow drivers.

When I first learned to drive, I was told to turn on my directional in plenty of time for the driver in the other lane to know what was about to happen. Presumably the other driver would realize that I needed to get over, and hopefully he would tap his brake, allowing me that little extra space needed to make a safe transition. For many years of my driving experience, that’s exactly how it worked.

Then something happened. As close as I can remember – my first recollection anyway – things began to change sometime in the mid to late eighties. I can actually recall the first time it happened because I was shocked. I turned on the directional and began to ease my way into the right lane so I could make my exit. The car that I needed to get in front of stomped the gas, propelling their car forward to prevent me from getting over. Nasty, I thought.

Now this is the norm. If you want to get over into another lane, you’re on your own. Using your directional is tantamount to sending up a flare so the enemy can calculate your coordinates and cut you off at the pass. I find it best to wait till I think I can make it, and zip over before the other driver knows what has happened.

It’s hard to understand the logic. They know you’re coming over one way or another, but instead of making it a safe transition they crowd you, making the whole proposition unnecessarily dangerous. I think this is a metaphor for our overpopulated and hectic world.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that people are any worse than they were forty years ago. I don’t. I believe that our neighborhoods and highways have become overburdened with too many of “us.” It’s as simple as that – at least on the coasts.

We are over scheduled, over worked, over stressed, and there are too many of us out there trying to get to Target to buy that toy that’s been over marketed to our children on Saturday mornings, and we know they will all be sold out before we get there if we don’t cut this old woman off in traffic. After all, we’ve been convinced that it could make all the difference to our child’s happiness on Christmas morning, perhaps scaring her for life if she doesn’t get this most coveted of toys, perhaps even sapping her sense of well being enough that she can never produce the kind of drive that she will most certainly need to get into her college of choice. “By God, that woman is not going to get in front of me, no way, no how.”

I’m not without shame either. I have a very bad habit that, even after years of trying, I can not seem to shake. I positively turn the air blue inside my car. I would shame a sailor with my language. (no offense to sailors. they have the cutest uniforms – by far.) I have a potty mouth and when my “fight or flight” syndrome kicks in, my mouth engages.

Where does The Husband fit into all of this? He sleeps – like a baby – through the entire thing. You know – I’ve told you before – he slept through mortar attacks in Vietnam, and more impressively, he once slept through a root canal. I am so envious of this ability.

At any rate, we made it home without incident. I didn’t get a ticket!

I need to move to the middle of the country.