Where did you learn to drive? Get off the road you f*&%#@! b#)&$.
All I could do was wave at the guy who angrily pulled up next to me. Turning left only a few moments before out of my neighborhood (after looking both ways, of course), I eased into the northbound lane. It was clear to turn on the 40 MPH speed limit road. I increased my speed to 43 MPH (still “legal”) and noticed this car speeding up behind me. No way this car was going 40 or even 45.
Tailgating behind me until the stoplight ahead, I saw him angrily jerk his car into the left hand turn lane. And then he opened his mouth.
I had a few choices I could make: ignore him, yell back at him or do something to show him he wasn’t about to get under my skin. I quickly chose the latter…and waved.
I knew laughing and smiling at him would only make it worse. So, I waved. And waved. And waved. Then, I blew a kiss at him and said, Have a great day, dude!
And, completely stupid.
Ignoring an idiot that’s behind the wheel is usually the best course of action. But, something in me wanted to respond. It was a defensive mechanism. It was an attitude of “How dare you challenge me when I’m in the right?”.
As I reflected on this incident, I thought about how it relates to sports.
And, of course, social media.
In today’s non-stop, always on world, many of us are bombarded with information overflow. Let’s be clear here.
It’s OUR CHOICE to be informed…constantly. We don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter as much as are – it’s a choice.
Because it’s our choice, we expose ourself to the good and the bad. We rejoice in a new birth. We feel the heartache in a doctor’s diagnosis. We empathize with job loss. We get angry over real and perceived indignities. We share in victories and losses.
We choose to participate in it all.
I am cognizant of that. In the early days, I used to freely give my opinion on a variety of topics. But, as time has gone on, I am keenly aware of how easy it is for people to misunderstand my written word. I own it, but that doesn’t mean people will agree with me. It’s all about perception.
Combined with reality.
Joe Brown had non-stop customer complaints at his job all day long. His wife called him during one of the in-store complaints to tell him their daughter got suspended from school, the pipes busted in the basement and she has to head out of town for work.
On his birthday.
Frustrated, Joe hops on social media before heading home to find out the latest trade rumors for his favorite team. Hoping they make that one move…that one final move…that will put them over the top. Instead, he sees star player in trouble with authorities for a weekend event.
And, media “crucifying” said player.
Already angry, he reacts. The anger in his heart spills over into his social media posts. Jose says things he doesn’t really mean. He’s just reacting to his day in the only place he feels he can do it.
Joe can’t yell at customers. Joe won’t yell at his wife. Joe has to figure out what to do about his daughter’s school…and his daughter. Oh, and the pipes in the basement? He’s so mad he could scream.
Instead, he hopped on social media.
With posts that can’t be taken back.
Or deleted forever.
The above story is an exaggeration. Or maybe, it actually happens.
Every single day.
No matter the social media platform, no matter the country, it plays out every single day.
Is this an excuse for behavior? No. Never has been nor will it ever be an excuse for bad behavior, be it on social media or driving.
Every single day we make choices. When it comes to our feelings and emotions, we choose how we handle them. We choose how we respond with them.
There have been so many days where I want to say something on social media. But, I’ve learned that words on a screen can be misconstrued. They can be, dare I say, taken out of context.
I’ve learned to not post. I know that people will be offended and vehemently disagree with me – and respond in kind.
I understand the landscape. I know enough to know that people can be sensitive and closed-minded. They can be dogmatic in their opinions and ideals.
And, I know that there is more to a reaction that what is visible on the surface.
Was that driver late for work?
Did he just get in a fight with his wife or girlfriend?
Maybe he got a speeding ticket the day before.
Or lost his job recently.
I don’t know what his issue was when he yelled at me that day. Whatever it was it was enough to set him off and call me a f*&%#@! b#)&$.
He was wrong. I was wrong for even trying to respond. Looking back, I do feel sorry for him. So much anger in his heart that he felt compelled to take it out on me.
So many times we talk about acceptance, peace, tolerance, yet we forget it all starts with understanding. We can’t get to understanding without first trying to understand where others are coming from. It is in those moments when true dialogue takes place.
The driver was angry before he started yelling at me. I should have recognized that and just went about with my day. It wouldn’t have changed the fact that he cursed at me.
By responding, however, I only fed the beast that lies within. Anger, in and of itself, is normal. What we do with that anger, in our angry moment, says more about us as human beings that perhaps we care to admit.