Bump Off

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.


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.

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20 Responses to Bump Off

  1. I wasn’t there, Tim, yadda yadda. But your last paragraph seems to have nailed it. For whatever reason this tightly-wound loon had to go off on someone and you just happened to be there when the wrappings came off the wires. Kinda’ scary to think that our politics is, in part, a matter of organizing and directing this lunacy against various targets, of which Islamofascists are high on the list.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Yeah. I was thinking about it a bit later and the guy was pretty much red-faced from the moment I saw him. I took that to be rage, but it just as easily could have been drunkenness, another thing that hadn’t really occurred to me at the time. In any event, the thing that’s unnerving is that this is what’s in his head, a kind of horrible mash-up of overheard mob exhortations.

  3. k8 says:

    That is truly frightening! Especially since he now has a pretty good idea of where you live. Were you able to get a license plate number? That sort of rage-filled behavior is so typical of abusers, something I’m hyper-aware of as a female and the daughter of a social worker made sure her children knew how to identify those characteristic behaviors. Really, the whole time I read this I could feel myself tensing up and going into alert mode. It is so frightening that such small things can trigger such aggressive (and potentially fatal) actions.

    I’m really glad you’re ok! No one should have to put up with that.

  4. withywindle says:

    Speaking As A Conservative: I abhor, condemn, and disavow completely this lunatic’s actions. (I am my brother conservative’s keeper, so some such statement is necessary.)

    Speaking as myself: Deepest sympathies–shock, horror–fervent hope this never happens again.

  5. Wow – I feel for you & know how freaked out it can make you after the fact. I once got yelled at for being a “faggot” by a guy in a pick-up, who was clearly annoyed at my attempt to cross the street in a crosswalk (a clear indication of faggotry), but thankfully he didn’t get out of the truck like your madman.

    What gets me is what sent him over the edge to the point of a medium-speed chase was a frakking Kerry/Edwards sticker. Is that really the most leftie bumper sticker found in your neck of the woods? Or did Rush trigger the mind control rays to freak out the ditto-heads?

  6. gr says:

    I agree with the various support you’ve read already, but I do have two questions:

    Which of those two unelectable blocks of would did this douche think (in your opinion; I’m sure the conversation didn’t go that far) was a war criminal? Because, um, I can say lots of mean things about both of those guys, but they’re all based in reality. I’m pretty sure the current president is the only presidential *candidate* since Reagan against whom “war criminal” could be a sanely-leveled accusation.

    Why didn’t you just go inside and get a gun? I mean, really, who cares if it’s totally fake to make your conscious comfortable, you live in one of the few US states that still respects the Second Amendment, and jerks like this who (no doubt) extol it for all the wrong reasons are exactly the correct occasion to assert it. (Yes, you can still get a carry and conceal in PA. I’m sure that has NOTHING to do with the murder rate in Philly. Really.)

  7. nord says:

    Check out http://www.platewire.com – you can report the drive by car and license plate. Good to get it on record. I’ve reported a few and it helps 😉

    that being said, there are a million nuts out there – my apologies you had to run into one on their bad day.

    It is tougher when the nuts break down left/right – most people can choose a side. When I was collecting Libertarian candidate signatures for a ballot access, I had a beat a hasty escape from someone throwing aggressive barbs about the involuntary treatment of mentally ill people. go figure…

  8. gr says:

    Apparently, I can spell at this hour and level of intoxication, but not the correct word absent proof-reading.

    “Blocks of wood” is how I actually meant to describe Kerry and Edwards. Kerry’s just a pine board from Home Despot, while Edwards is more of a knotty oak, but I still wouldn’t vote for either of them if you put a gun (to be self-referential) to my head.

    Yes, it’s actually going to be hard for me to figure out how to vote in 2008. It would be bad enough if I just had to swallow my convictions about abortion policy and vote for Ron Paul, but given that he’s zero chance of nomination, I get to choose between two people with each of whom I will disagree more than 80% of the time. That sounds like fun!

  9. Timothy Burke says:

    It occurred to me about two minutes after he drove off that a license plate would have been a good thing to notice.

    There are definitely more expressive bumper stickers around if the guy really was looking for ideology–I just think he kind of settled on this as the reason why he went nuts, but the reason (I gotta believe) was more elemental than that.

    It definitely unsettled me this afternoon–that kind of, “Man, I was ready to throw down with this guy, but come on, who knows what would have happened” feeling–that sense of having gone through one of those junctures where your life could have taken a sharp turn.

  10. JonathanGray says:

    Sorry to hear this. One sees bonehead anger of all political or apolitical varieties daily in the blogosphere, but would kind of like to believe this bubbles up solely because it’s a relatively anonymous, dephysicalized space, but clearly not with all. I’m particularly flabbergasted that you’d get such grief and pure rage for flying the *loser’s* colors — it’s not as if his country has been suffering under his mortal enemy (and “war criminal” [?!]) as president since 04 because of you and your other “faggot” voter compadres. sheesh.

  11. Doug says:

    Fifty-five, sixty, purple with rage and given to apoplectic screaming at strangers? There’s a heart attack or a burst blood vessel in this guy’s future.

  12. Daniel Rosenblatt says:

    I’ve been meaning to order myself a Darwin fish decal –this both reminds me and give me second thoughts!

  13. MEHooper says:

    Let’s hope the fool regained control before he kills somebody. But he does know where you live, and his processes are obviously flawed. I’m with K8; this guy is dangerous and a ticking bomb.

    Don’t dismiss this as yesterday’s problem. If he’s looking for a target, everybody is vulnerable.

  14. troutgrrrl says:

    My partner had a similar affront while in the drive-through line at a fast food restaurant. She noticed that the large Chrysler/Cadillac type sedan behind her pulled very very close to the rear bumper of her Toyota RAV. She started paying attention to the car because it was making her nervous. The driver, a woman or 50-60 was gesturing emphatically and pointing at the RAV while talking energetically with her passenger, a man of apparently similar age. Part way through the process of driving around to the pickup window and waiting in line, the sedan began bumping my partner’s RAV in the rear end. My partner pulled as close to the car in front of her as she could without causing a domino effect, but the bumping continued. My partner finally got out of her car to walk around back and look for any damage. The older couple got out of their car as well and started telling her to ‘fuck off bitch’ and ‘go on back to Iran’ etc. This was all about her peace and anti-war bumper stickers. My partner noticed that the couple’s sedan had veteran stickers on the windows.

    The right has done a good job of confusing war-protesting with soldier- and veteran-opposition. They take it very personally. I wish they’d take a few other things personally.

  15. Chris Andersen says:

    The budged for the Secret Service better be doubled (if not tripled) should any Dem (especially Hillary) wins the Presidency. The country is teeming with potential Oswalds and Gacys.

  16. dasher says:

    Mr. or Ms. Andersen: From your poorly spelled and grammatically, uh, “challenged” post, I presume your political persuasion is not exactly “in sync” with most of the posters here.

    Are your comments vis-a-vis the need for enhanced protection for a Democratic president intended to be a threat? Because similar comments directed at Mr. Bush have been viewed as threatening by the Secret Service, and been vigorously investigated.

    Perhaps you should learn some moderation. Take up yoga. Or meditation.

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  18. Brad says:

    I don’t think this guy was out of line; I respond the same way every time I see one of those “my child is an honor student” stickers.

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  20. Isaac says:

    I bet you that night he thought about what he should have done to you. Good on you for calling him out. They’re cowards- all of them. Afraid of a sticker? Pathetic.

    If you ever find yourself in the same situation, just slow down. Go REAL slow. Let the guy really lose it. Or flip it up, and chase him.

    In the fall of 2001, my girlfriend had someone paint “PEACE” on the back window of our car. Wow! That really pissed off this one guy and he started yelling on the freeway. I shot him a pissed off look and took off after him. That guy hit the accelerator and began weaving through traffic to escape. I got bored and didn’t want a ticket, so I gave up on the chase and headed to the beach.

    Another time (2004)- I talked trash to 3 Bush praising right-wingers in a bar while watching CNN talk about Bush and Bernard Kerik. They stared down at their drinks and shut up.

    No wonder they’ll toss a $20 to a black man to give him head, rather than get their corpulent bodies scraped.

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