So I’m driving home today to pick up lunch. We live about five minutes from campus by car. I turn onto the road before our street, which often gets a lot of traffic. A pickup truck comes up fast behind me (I’m driving ten mph over the speed limit already, and the road is fairly curvy and narrow, with no shoulders, blind turns and no passing lanes.)
The truck is tailgating me. No, scratch that. Tailgaiting is too ordinary a description for what he was doing. I haven’t really seen anything like this before. He is about six inches behind me, at 45 mph. I kid you not. I gradually slow before the left turn into my home street simply because if I brake any more abruptly, he is guaranteed to rear-end me. I turn. He turns behind me, keeping his close distance, and then suddenly lurches around me to the left on our small residential street, swerving wildly around me at around 50 mph and almost losing control of his truck. Our driveway comes up, I turn left into it, shaken. He jams on the brakes at the stop sign that’s about 75 feet from our driveway, coming to a tires-smoking halt. I get out of my car and stare at him in amazement.
He goes into reverse and starts screaming at me. I can’t really hear it except for a lot of f-bombs until he gets close. I yell back, “Why were you tailgating me like that? I was already going well over the speed limit!”
He’s now right in front of my driveway. Older guy–55? 60? Big walrus mustache, grey hair, relatively slight build, but kind of tough-looking.
“BECAUSE YOU’RE A FUCKING FAGGOT, FUCKER! YOU FUCK! I SHOULD HAVE FUCKING HIT YOU! I SHOULD HIT YOU NOW!” He goes on in that vein for a bit.
I’m honestly kind of taken aback. I’ve seen bad drivers, I’ve been given the finger (and given it on a few occasions), but I have no idea what’s eating this guy. I was almost expecting to hear that I had done something on the road and not noticed it. But here I am on my own lawn, on my own street, and there’s a man who actually seems like he’s going to hop out of his car and attack me. I haven’t been in a serious fight since the eighth grade, but I’m pretty much ready to fight if this guy tries to come at me on my own property. On the other hand, I’m consciously thinking, this guy pretty much almost killed me with his car: I can hardly count on him coming out of there with just his own fists if that’s the way this is going to go.
I yell back when he stops for air, “What is your FUCKING problem? What did I do to you?”
He leans out to point at my car bumper. Which is entirely unadorned except for a Kerry-Edwards sticker from 2004.
“YOU FAGGOT YOU VOTED FOR THAT WAR CRIMINAL. I’M GOING TO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU.” Guy is turning a shade of purple. I don’t think he’s just putting on a show. He actually sped up, nearly rammed with his car at high speed and is now seriously contemplating attacking me over a bumper sticker. I’m so astonished that I’m speechless. He looks at me, looks at the house, and I think he’s noticing that there’s another car there and therefore maybe someone who is going to call the cops if something happens. Plus, I’m thinking the same thing myself, and getting out my cell phone. Machismo be damned: we just entered psycho territory. He pulls away and speeds off, yelling all the while. I spend about ten minutes kind of trembling as the adrenaline drains away.
So much of the rage out there in the public sphere strikes me as phony or compensatory that it can be jaw-dropping, at least for me, to find out that there is anyone in all the world who will go beyond writing nasty comments at wingnut blogs or calling talk radio.