>Peace Be Still: Dealing With Belligerent People 11.30.10

>Just a few minutes ago I was leaving my mother's home and as I drove out of her sub-division of her neighborhood, I turned on my signal and waited at the stop sign. I saw two cars approaching in the rain about 75 meters (or more) away. I exited and carefully maneuvered around a small pothole and as I did one of the drivers- who was obviously speeding well beyond the 35 mph limit- was immediately near the bumper of my car, swerving and honking the horn. I looked at my speedometer and after a few feet I was already going faster than the speed limit. I looked in my rear-view mirror and the driver was swerving in the lane next to me, and then veered back into my lane. Why was this other driver speeding, especially in the rain? I said aloud as though I was speaking to the driver, "why are you driving so fast?"

I quickly prayed for patience. I continued driving and kept my cool through the twists and turns of the street while this driver turned on their high beams and continued tailgating me. I was getting a little irritated but I continued driving calmly as I focused on driving and keeping a safe cushion between my car and the driver's. Eventually when I could safely pull over I decided to do so to give this irate and obviously rushed driver the space to go around me and continue on their way. But instead of going around me the driver pulled over behind me and then enraged, quickly pulled next to my car almost causing the car that followed us to crash into the driver. I looked out my window and there was another woman staring back at me yelling. I said to myself, "peace be still" and then rolled down my window. I looked at this woman as she punched her right fist into her left hand and began to yell, "I just want to know…I just want to know…." What she wanted to know was why I hadn't waited for her to zoom past me. I told her that I had ample room to enter the street, but I hadn't gauged how fast she was truly driving.

I am an excellent driver and I can accurately gauge the distance and speed of my car and others. I also have superior peripheral vision. I know that I can be a "speed demon" but I also know that in harsh weather conditions you should not push the limits of your car. In harsh weather conditions you should not risk speeding and making quick and sharp turns. I factored in the rain and that it was overcast before I entered the street. I factored in that the driver was about 75 meters away from my car, and that the car that followed them was at least one car-length behind. I factored in that this is a dangerous street and that the majority of the residents on that street have to know this fact.

What I had not gauged was that she was speeding well beyond 40 mph; not originally- but only once I entered the street and out of frustration she accelerated. What I had not factored in was that although it was raining there would be a driver willing to risk driving upwards of 15 mph over the posted 35 mph limit on a very narrow and unpredictable winding road; a location of numerous accidents. What I had not factored in was that although she saw me enter the slick street, that she would not slow down- instead she would accelerate. I had not considered that she would not even slow down for the obvious potholes in the street- regardless if I had been there. I had not considered that although the city had placed speed limit monitoring signs on the street to alert speeding drivers that they were far-exceeding the posted speed limit- that someone would ignore these signs even in a heavy rain.

I did not say all of this to her though because after I apologized I realized that she wasn't willing to accept my apology- she wanted to argue; she wanted to yell. I wanted to get home to eat my natural-cut french fries that I had just purchased from Wendy's. She wanted to continue engaging me in her inquiry and hopefully upset me. I wanted to get out of the rain and out of my four-inch heels and my suit. So I didn't fall into the trap. I didn't tell her that she was speeding and driving faster than what would be considered safe. I didn't tell her that there have been too many accidents on this narrow street and that she should know better. When she asked me why did I risk her life, I didn't respond by asking her why did she risk my life, her life, and the life of the driver that followed at a safe distance behind her. I didn't ask her why her anger almost caused the other driver to hit her car when she swerved to confront me.

I could tell that she had a bad day and that she was already angry long before she encountered me. If she had children and or a husband- she was already intent on ruining their day also when she got home. I looked at her car and saw the huge dents from prior accidents alongside and in the front of her car- and I told myself that she is an accident-magnet and probably leaves everyday expecting to get into one.

I took a slow, deep breath and looked this woman in her eyes and remained calm. I repeated a few times that I had apologized, and then I extended my apologies once more. Then I sat there and continued making eye contact as the rain trickled into my car and on my clothes. My calmness upset her even more. Frustrated that she could not get the reaction she expected from me, she tried to drive off but her car was in park. She yelled out as she rolled up her window and slammed on the gas. Her wheels spun wildly and her car slid back onto the street. I turned on my signal (as I always do when leaving from a parked position) and re-entered the street and followed behind her car amazed at how I kept my cool and did not sink to her level. She turned left onto her street and I kept driving home.

There was a time when I would have engaged in a shouting match with her, I would have out-yelled her, and made her day worse than it was. At that point we both would have had a bad day, and her family would have been miserable. This won't be her last time flipping out on someone, losing control, and having road rage. This won't be my last encounter with someone like her- but I hope that I handle the situation as well or better than I did today. We must control our emotions. We must 'check' ourselves. When faced with chaos we must say silently or aloud, "peace be still" so that we can control our sea of emotions.

Natasha L. Foreman

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

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