Friday, June 25, 2010

Mr. Road Rage

I have a busy day ahead and a break in the day. This is a good time to blog.

A P.I.'s day often begins in the afternoon or evening... and moves well into night.
Like hospital workers, police, paramedics, reporters,  firemen and women, gas station and convenience store  workers....  P.I.'s often have the night shift, because our subjects usually exhibit  their poorest behavior under cover of dark.

Given my druthers, I prefer to work closer to the crack of dawn when the crackheads are snoozing.
Crackheads, druggies and drinkers are very active at night. As are the minions who revolve around them.
(Go into any Wal Mart after midnight and you'll see the Meth heads buzzing round  like bees, feeding on their  version of honey.. loads of sugar soaked goods.)

When I leave the city of Seattle and head north to the Kingston ferry after dark, I always take Aurora Ave North instead of the freeway. I get a kick  out of  watching the hookers, pimps and dealers wake up and walk the talk while the Johns, police, and commuters like me cruise the streets.

Last  night, at a stop light, my eyes swept into an alley where I saw a doper guy help his doper girl shoot up. I was mesmerized for many reasons, one of which was  they could've at least sought cover behind the dumpster.  However, they figured their need was greater and they chose not to consider people like me at red lights, spotting and watching them.

Meantime, I forgot about the red light that had been green now for enough time to incite the guy behind me to lay on his horn.... long and hard.
That took me by surprise because people do not honk horns in Seattle like they do in places like New York.
When you hear a car horn in Seattle, it means something's wrong.
I looked up, saw the red light and  quickly stepped on the gas.
No problem... my car and the five behind me, passed through the light.
It's all good, I thought.
I was wrong.
It wasn't good for the guy in the white Lexus directly behind me.

I was in the right lane.
He pulled up quickly to the left lane, parallel to me...
rolled his passenger window down and shot out a few expletives.
His finishing touch was the middle finger salute.

He was no kid, no teenager being irreverent, no 20 or 30-something who would learn better.
This guy was well over 50, wearing a suit, driving a nice car, had the look of a handsome leading man, grey fox, central casting.
I looked in his eyes, which were slits. I looked at his skin which turned from white to deep red.
I just stared back at him as he continued to hurl insults mixed with spittle, then race by me.

I realized this was one of those turning points.
This was one of those moments when a button is pushed and the confrontation can escalate to dangerous levels.
When he lingered there next to me, yelling, ranting.... my temperature rose. No denying it.
After he dropped the f bomb the third time, I knew I was fully engaged.

I felt that familiar tug between emotion and logic and contemplated my next move.
I chose to glare back at him, say nothing. Dude lost his apology privileges.

Instead, I choose to watch  him race ahead of me to what I knew would soon be another red light.
And soon, I would be coasting in right behind him.

My crime?  I sat on the brake pedal too long while watching a couple shoot up.
Did that really warrant his response?

I won't dignify his words to me by repeating them here. Suffice to say the comment that really yanked my chain  had to do with eating stuff you normally flush.

So let's just say pulling into position right behind him at the next red light made me feel like the mad scientist of revenge. I took our my binocs, chose the really big ones, and looked directly into his rear view mirror. He saw I was behind him, he knew it as me. And now I was watching him. That was good. His expression changed to surprise.

I  put down the binocs, waved and smiled at him, pointed down to his rear license plate, held up my notebook and wrote down his plate numbers. Then I reached for my cell phone, held it up and pointed to it so he could see it ion his rear view. I saw his head drop.

The light changed he raced forward, I followed.

He changed lanes, I changed lanes. We did the cat and mouse thing.
Always lingering behind him. He knew I was there.
I will admit. It is a thrill to go from hunted to hunter.

I debated whether to simply to continue to annoy him, or call the Road Rage Hot Line and call it a day. And then I began to wonder about him.
So I decided to slip back, follow and observe....unobserved.

Understand, I was not on the job.
I was just another person on the concrete canal heading home.
And in the course of following him maybe eight miles, he did the same thing to three other people. At one red light, when he was just waiting, he was screaming to no one in his car and pounding on the wheel. His face was distorted.This guy was in his own private hell and we, the people on the road with him, had no clue.
Oddly, I felt some compassion. He was in huge pain.
Yet being in pain does not entitle you to beat up others.

What ended this encounter and will end this post is his final move.
I witnessed him blow through a crosswalk when an old man was still it. He almost hit the pedestrian. And when the old guy and other witnesses yelled, they too received the middle finger salute.

That's when I pulled my car over ad the the Road Rage Hotline received my call.
This wasn't anything for 911, I decided, though I was definitely tempted.
Maybe something horrible just happened to him.
Maybe he lost his job. His money. His marriage.
Maybe he couldn't make his car payments, house payments.
Maybe his kid died.
Maybe he was schizophrenic and the voices in his head were screaming at him.
Maybe he just lost it.
Maybe the guy is just a lunatic.
Maybe there was a gun on the seat next to him.

Often, a precipitating factor is what makes people like that driver tweek.
Other times, control-freaks... or mild-mannered, oppressed or repressed people... release their aggression behind the wheel.
People with road rage in command of a 5,000 pound missile are to be avoided at all costs.

I always drive slow.
I also watch everyone around me.
I leave plenty of space between my car and the car in front while driving and at complete stops.
I do not drive in front of semi's or box vans because the vehicles are not maintained mechanically for economic reasons.
And when I encounter a Road Rager, I usually watch unaffected.
This time, this guy got to me.
And the fact that he got to me.... got to me.


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