Tailgater, your pain is my pain

September 22, 2002|By Mark Cloud

ATLANTA -- I can sense your frustration. You see, unlike most people, I am extremely sensitive to the feelings of others. It only takes a quick look, and my highly attuned sense of empathy allows me to determine a person's mood.

That's why, even though we are in separate cars, I can tell you are unhappy. Simply by glancing in my rearview mirror, I am able to see from the grimace on your face and the veins bulging in your neck and the death grip you have on the wheel that you are not in a good place right now.

It's not necessary for you to pull your car up directly behind mine, nearly touching my rear bumper, for me to become aware of your disappointment. Nor do you need to honk your horn repeatedly while shaking your fist in order to gain my attention. I see you. And I feel your pain.

I know that at this point in your life you want nothing more than to get past me. I know that you are not mollified by my already going 77 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone. I realize that in your mind this is not enough because everyone except a moron knows that slower traffic should keep to the right. But here I am, in the far left lane, piddling along at a mere 12 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. How dare I? Who appointed me commissioner of speed control?

As you know, the answer is that no one has appointed me. I hope you can understand that I did not intend to impede you and your Chevy Citation on your way to what is undoubtedly an important appointment with your television, or the drive-through window at Wendy's.

I simply pulled into this lane to pass another car, and when I did so, you were nowhere in sight. But now you have appeared without warning, miraculously close to my tail, driving at an unnatural speed that seems sure to shake all the bolts loose from your rusty and trembling Citation.

I know that you blame me for your current predicament. And I know that you think you are upset with me. But the truth is that you're not really angry with me. Rather, you're angry with yourself. That's right, there's something going on in your life that's bothering you, that you're trying to run away from. I can sense these things.

Which is why I've taken it upon myself to help you right now by slowing down. I will not be a party to your speed-demon attempt to outrun your problems. It's not the answer, friend. So let's just slow down to the speed limit, where you can calm down and figure out what's really bothering you.

There, isn't that better? Sure, all the cars in the lane to our right are passing us because nobody else is driving this slow. But let's not worry about them right now. This is about you. Let's focus on what's really causing you to keep pounding on your dashboard and yelling even though you're alone in your car. Maybe it's an unrequited love or a bad relationship with your parents.

Well, I guess that's it. Because there you go, swerving into an imperceptible gap in the speeding traffic to our right. I see you gesturing as you accelerate past me, which I can only take as a wave of thanks. It's my pleasure, buddy, you're more than welcome.

You need to remember, though, you really shouldn't pass on the right.

Mark Cloud is a lawyer and free-lance writer who lives in Atlanta.

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