“Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I have such a beautiful feeling that things will be going my way.” Oscar Hammerstein
During my early years in high school, my favorite spot was the school library. During lunch and study hall, I would slip in there and walk between the many aisles of books. My fingers would run across hundreds of covers until it stopped at one, and then I would read silently where I stood or at a table in the corner, never to be bothered by the high school life until my time was up. And during my ventures, I came across a book with collective pieces of writing and poetry, and this piece by Oscar Hammerstein has never left my mind.
And today started early. The sun was shining bright. Errands demanded to be answered. Work was waiting. Today was another day, or so I thought.
The drive through town was peaceful. I always loved the scenery, but the constant building was starting to eat away at what was once a beautiful, small town. And the traffic was building, reflecting all the newcomers who now call this place home. And what I once knew as rush hour on Long Island has found me here.
Heading for Route 17, the road became clear. I loved when I was the only car driving along. There was no honking, no flashing lights, and no people cutting me off to get ahead. I was not bothered, and I could drive any way I chose.
My days of speeding didn’t last too long. When I first had my car, I enjoyed the rush of the vehicle shooting forward, wheels burning against cement, and cruising along with music blasting out my windows, and there are a few moments, where I still do that. But more often, I like taking my time, allowing thoughts to tumble over each other, and think ahead to what needs to be done. My time in the car is my time, my moment to be alone and think, and not be bothered by the weight of the world.
During the days of commute, I recently stumbled across the “Me Firsts.” These are people that cut you off for no reason. They are not taking the exit coming up. They are not trying to get ahead of a slow driver, which I admit is sometimes me. They just want to be first. They don’t care if they are stuck right behind a car with their butt or bumper in your face, as long as they are ahead of you, and sometimes, I try not to let them in.
But today was a very different day. Getting onto 17, there was not one car behind me. Just as I checked my driver-side mirror, I caught a glance of a car speeding up behind me. I braked as a school bus slowly drove by in the right lane, but the car behind me started to swerve, almost hitting the bus. But then he braked, allowing me to get behind the bus.
And the little, blue car flew into the left lane. The guy slammed his fist onto the steering wheel, honking as loud as he could, but I never took my eyes off the road. I could see hand gestures out of the corner of my eye, but I remained behind the bus. And he remained right beside me, almost venturing a little too close to my car.
Before I knew it, he flew further ahead and cut the bus off. He came a little too close, and then he braked. And then the bus braked, and I braked. And I thought there was going to be an accident, but thank God, there was not.
Instead, the bus removed itself from between us. The guy was hardly moving up ahead, which was funny because he flew pretty fast off the exit ramp before. So, what was he doing or trying to do? Cause an accident?
After waiting a few minutes, I merged into the left lane and passed this guy. I kept a few cars ahead, hoping he would disappear in traffic. But I was wrong.
A town or two over, I checked my rearview mirror, and he was right behind me. His eyes were fixated on my bumper. His speed had increased, and there were no cars between us. But lucky for me, this guy was not driving an SUV.
Merging again into the left lane, I bypassed another car and then merged back into the right lane. I did not want to speed. I did not want to be bothered, but I did not need some mad man behind the wheel following me to work. As it is, I think someone keyed my car, and he would probably do a lot worse.
And I breathed a sigh of relief as I spotted my exit. Another mile to go, and then I would be freed from this crazy ride. And part of me worried about him following, and another part prayed for him to continue on his merry way. And as I took my exit, I did not see him follow, and I breathed another sigh of relief.
What amazes me is that we don’t know who is in the car beside us, behind us, or ahead of us. We don’t know where they were born, how many children they have, or if they are doctors, lawyers, clerks, or criminals. We have no clue, and we just drive. And we cut them off, and they cut us off. And it is a game played on the roads every day, and nobody stops to ask why. And sometimes that game becomes dangerous, fatal, and for what reason? What reason do they have for trying to cause an accident?
If someone is having a bad day, then the best thing for them to do is stay home. There are too many people these days having bad days on the road, creating road rage. There are too many senseless accidents, people just flipping out, and people dying. And when you’re behind the wheel, you have to remember one thing. Your life is important, but so is everyone else around you. Any mistake, any mental breakdown could place you and them in danger, and again, for what reason? What reason do any of us have to cause an accident?
So, when you’re out and about, commuting or just driving, be safe. Keep your eyes open, and keep your distance. If you come across the Me Firsts, then it’s up to you to let them in or not. If you come across anyone like the blue beetle, get as far away from them as possible. The road is a dangerous place no matter how careful you try to be, and you always have to be on guard. You always have to be prepared for that day when your path crosses with a road rage driver.