When Anger Manifests as Road Rage
Driving in our small town is usually pretty chill. People let each other in and don’t cut one another off. But right now, the roads are busier than normal.
It’s construction season, and we have many out-of-town tourists. People come from big cities, where they live with more stress and less patience. They don’t know the driving culture of the Keweenaw, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve been hearing more honks from other drivers, but we rarely experience road rage.
I had been reviewing the state’s “What Every Driver Must Know” instruction book with my 15-year-old daughter, Sara, who will be taking driver’s education soon. In a section on avoiding road rage, it said if someone is aggressive in their driving and yells or honks, it is best to ignore the offender and not escalate the situation. We talked about giving the other driver the benefit of the doubt.
“Assume that maybe his dog just died,” I told Sara.
“Or they’re on the way to the hospital to have a baby,” she said.
Last Sunday, as we left church with my husband, Todd, in the back of our accessible van, I made a slow turn onto the highway so as not to jostle his head. His neck is weak because he has ALS. As I rounded an orange construction barrel, the driver behind me honked and drove around me to the far lane. I scolded him loudly in what Sara calls my teacher voice: “That is uncalled for. You need to be patient!”
My windows were up, so the other driver didn’t hear. However, the other day, my windows happened to be down, and the other driver was on a motorcycle without a helmet.
I was driving Sara to band practice when we got stuck in a line waiting for the lift bridge. As a sailboat passed under it, I got a call from my mom. She said she was stuck at the bridge.
“So are we,” I said, glancing back in my mirror. She was only a car length behind in the lane next to me.
Since her lane was merging into mine due to construction, she said, “Oh good, you can let me in when the bridge goes up.”
I rolled down my window and waved her forward. There were no cars in front of her so she rolled up next to me. When the bridge went up, I let her in front of me.
That was too much for a white-haired man sitting behind me on a fancy motorcycle. “Go, go, go!” he yelled and scowled.
“That’s my mom!” I yelled back with my window still down.
After I crossed the bridge, he rode alongside me, shouting expletives. I again neglected to follow Michigan’s driving instructions, and I yelled, “That was my mom. We’re nice in the Keweenaw. We let people in.”
He yelled something else and sped off.
Sara pointed out the irony of me screeching at him that we were nice. I agreed.
“See, that is why you should follow the rules of the road and not yell at people,” I said. “Things could have gone badly if he had a gun or other weapon. Do as I say, not as I do.”
I shouldn’t have yelled, but there was a small part of me that felt good blowing off steam because I’m angry about a lot of things that are ALS-related, but I often don’t express that feeling.
I’m angry that this is our life. That our healthcare system is so poor. That there’s not more support for paralyzed people. That Medicare pays for so little help. That reimbursement rates are so low that home healthcare agencies pay aides little. and often don’t provide benefits, and thus they cannot hire and retain enough employees.
And I’m angry that so many others have even fewer resources than we have. That people with ALS struggle to walk, turn in their beds, and breathe. That caregiver spouses have little help, so their young kids end up taking on difficult caregiving tasks, sometimes even night care and toileting. That kids have to watch their parents waste away and die from this evil disease. This should not be.
I rant about it in my journal, and I occasionally scream at the sky, but neither ever responds. And so it was cathartic to yell at somebody who yelled back.
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.