Road Ragin' - 06.13.99

During the weeks leading up to my college graduation, I got more and more uptight. Sure it was an exciting time for me, but the thought of moving out of the comfortable confines of college and into the real world was kind of daunting. To make matters worse, not one but two different job opportunities fell through within the last two weeks of me receiving my diploma, leaving me with the option of moving home to my parents house for awhile until I found a job. On top of it all, I had already gotten my first student loan letter in the mail reminding me of how much I owed them. I didn't have to actually start paying them for another 6 months if I didn't want to, but they were definitely looming.

I moved home, found a job fairly quickly, and moved out of my house within about a month and a half of graduation. I was on my own and I was liking it. Everything seemed to settle down a bit, and I told myself that one thing I was going to try to do was not worry about things as much. The last several months of college were severely taxing on my system due to worry, and I'd always been a person that would look for something to get keyed up over, even if there wasn't anything.

Over the first few couple of months, I gradually phased down the things that would get me upset. One of the first things was getting a new outlook on sporting events. I'd always used to get upset if I wasn't doing well, but I gradually found myself worrying about it less and less, instead focusing in on the actual playing of the game and having fun doing that. It was a good, although small step for me, and I started enjoying things a lot more once I did so.

The next major thing I tried to stop letting bother me was financial matters. During the course of every month with paying rent and insurance and other random bills, I'd go through some sort of crisis (or so I thought) without fail. In actuality, when I look back at my situations, they weren't really that big of deal. Instead, it was basically just me being upset because I didn't have quite as much money as I would have liked to after paying off said expense (and who doesn't have these kind of worries). Eventually, though, I even got to a point where I was more laid-back about my finances. I didn't go out and spend tons of money, but I set up a monthly budget and stuck to it very well, so that I basically knew how much money I had at all times and how much I could spend. Unless a huge ordeal (like a large unexpected car expense) popped up (and it did), my stress level went down several notches in this area.

While there were a lot of other little things that I was still weird about, one of the largest looming things was how upset I'd get while I was driving my car. It wasn't anything like the guy in Lost Highway, and I hardly ever would even use my horn (partially because it's funny sounding instead of intimidating), but there were times when I was driving that I'd get so worked up I could literally feel my body temperature increasing.

At first, I tried to narrow down what would make me upset, simply so I could localize the problem and hopefully then deal with it better. The strange thing about me getting upset, though, was that there was never any real order to it. One day, I'd be driving along when someone would do something idiotic and I'd get completely fired up, while other days I'd let it pass by without a second thought.

One summer day after work was probably when the worst case of my road rage took place. I had gotten off work a little early because I wanted to get home and go out on a long bike ride and still get back early enough in the evening that I'd have some time to read and work on my computer. Things were going normal enough until I turned a corner a couple blocks from my work and ran into completely backed-up traffic. At first, I shrugged it off and rolled down my windows a little more to let the air get into my car a little more.

The traffic was creeping along and in almost 10 minutes time (which is the usual amount for me going all the way back home), I had only moved a couple of blocks. It was about 96 degrees out and there was barely any wind, making the air just a little harder to breathe anyway. I could feel sweat on my back going through my shirt and onto the car seat and smell exhaust from several other automobiles wafting my way. There was a crappy song on both radio stations that I listened to, and my tape player was broken, giving me no other options but listen to something horrible while the bass from the cars stereo behind me thumped so loud I could only hear bits of it anyway. I watched people walking on the sidewalk covering more ground than I was in my car and suddenly identified with Michael Douglas' character in the movie Falling Down.

Eventually, we moved far enough along so I could see that the cause of all the problems was a small accident that had gobbled up one entire lane of traffic as the people sorted out their mess. Both lanes of after-work traffic were now being forced into one lane and to make matters worse, almost everyone that went by had to crane their neck and get a good look at what was going on with the accident.

About the time I was getting to where I was driving by the accident, a car just to the right and front of me started pulling into my lane without looking. I was in their blind spot and probably would have collided with me had I not blared on my non-scary horn and yelled a few obsenities. They quickly pulled back into their lane and I slowly pulled by them, thinking I'd give them one last look to prove how upset I was.

When I went by, I saw that it was an older lady, probably about the age of my grandmother, cowering in her car with her windows down. Not only had she heard my horn, but probably my yelling at her as well and when I turned toward her with my most hard-ass glance, I actually felt bad instead of better.

After that, traffic cleared up and I was on my way again, but I was thinking about the old lady that I had just sweared at. True, it hadn't really been that big of a deal and I probably avoided an accident by yelling, but I still felt like a lamer for letting loose. After that, I decided to try to not let driving get to me so much.

A year later, it's still the only thing that really truly gets me upset once in awhile, but even that has died down quite a bit. I still swear once in awhile, but mainly just to myself. Most of the time, I can just sit back and not worry about things as much, and I don't have to worry about hearing crappy songs with my car improvement.