I experienced a taste of road rage earlier this week -- and found myself wishing that I had channeled some TV characters for inspiration.
If you can forgive the lengthy anecdote, here’s what happened: In the back seat of my car was an ailing dog, Bailey, that my 17-year-old daughter was pet sitting while a family was on vacation. I was leaving a veterinarian’s clinic.
It was rush hour, but nobody was rushing. I pulled onto a road, into a steady stream of slow moving traffic that was in the process of stopping due to a traffic light about 20 feet to our right. Basically, the cars were all moving in slow motion.
Anyway, as I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green, my car’s front half on the road and back half still in the parking lot, I heard incessant honking. It took, I’m guessing, six honks to realize that, Oh! I’m the one being honked at. I looked at the vehicle that was going to be behind me, once I was able to fully move onto the road, and spotted a scruffy looking guy in his mid-20s, driving a pick-up truck, who was wildly waving his arms and trying to get my attention. I figured a brake light was out or something, and he wanted to let me know. People can be so nice.
I rolled down the window, and instead, got an earful. The guy started shouting at me, making it clear that he expected a wave of thanks for allowing me to pull in front of him.
Well, I got very flustered.
Look, I will completely cop to the fact that I didn’t wave to him. Guilty as charged. But all I could think was – I was honked at five or six or ten times, and this guy is furious because I didn’t offer up a wave of thanks for not noticing that he slowed down, so I could pull onto the road?
Well, my fluster suddenly turned into fury. I became livid.
But I did do one very smart thing. I didn’t get into an argument with a hothead half my age.
I backed out of the road of traffic, reversing into the parking lot, figuring that if this driver was that crushed that I didn’t wave, I could reward him by giving him my place in line. I parked our car in front of the veterinarian’s office, as far from the road as possible, and I thought good thoughts and was a fine human being.
No, as I said, I was livid. Once I parked, I unleashed an incoherent word salad. I don’t remember much of what I shouted, but I do remember dropping the F-bomb, attached with the word “moron.”
Did I mention my 17-year-old daughter was sitting next to me?
No? Well, she was.
I continued raging. I waved my hands wildly, while Lorelei sat there, staring straight ahead, I think, probably wishing she could be anywhere else. I kept turning several times to look at the truck in utter disbelief, and for the longest time, it was still in line at the traffic light. I kept glaring at the guy, who probably couldn’t see me, which I’m sure was just as well. I kept talking, too, saying who knows what. I sounded unhinged. I remember – and I am not proud of admitting this -- telling Lorelei that if there was any justice in the world, the guy would wreck his truck in the next few minutes, and it would blow up, and he would die in a fiery explosion. That would show him.
About thirty seconds later, as I tried to calm down, I apologized to Lorelei for my behavior but added that I still stood by my vehicle blowing up sentiments.
In other words, I was in the midst of a lousy moment, a 51-year-old having a temper tantrum.
Even after the light finally turned green, and the cars moved on, and I meekly left the parking lot, and we started driving again, I couldn’t get the moment out of my mind. People can be so mean. Yes, I evidently didn’t conduct proper traffic etiquette, but six or seven honks and being yelled at?
“I’m sorry I acted the way I did,” I told Lorelei, for maybe the tenth time, later on the drive. “And, you know, in thinking about it, maybe I don’t want the guy to die in a fiery car wreck.”
Maybe? Yeah, I stayed angry for awhile. But I did eventually get past it. It’s not like I was ruminating about the incident 48 hours later and decided to write a post about it. Er…
How Would the Characters on LOST Have Handled Things?
Driving back home, I started thinking about Desmond Hume on the ABC TV series, LOST. Why he came into my mind, I don’t know, but I found myself thinking that if Desmond had been behind the wheel of my car, he would have grinned at the irate driver and waved and said, “I hear ya, brother!” And maybe he, too, would have backed out of the spot, or maybe he would have remained where he was. But I think he would have been charming about it and not blown a fuse in front of one of his daughters – or lost his temper if he were alone.
Either way, I envision him giving that friendly wave, and saying something like, “I hear ya, brother!” (He was always calling people, “Brother.”) And then, sitting there at the wheel, I’m sure Desmond would have been hit in the back of the head by an oar, and everything would have gone black.
Well, maybe not that last part (if you used to watch the show, you might remember that scene), but crazy things were always happening on LOST.
Anyway, my point is, Desmond would have handled things much better than I did. I have no doubt of that. The guy, after all, used to be a monk.
Then I started thinking about some of the other LOST characters and imagined what they might have done if they had been behind the wheel of the car in the exact same situation.
- Jack Shepherd. I think he would have waved and shouted, “Sorry,” or something along those lines, and then he would have focused on the traffic. Maybe he would have looked at Lorelei and shrugged, like, “What’re you gonna do?” I do not see him losing his cool over this, unless the driver then hit his car’s rear bumper or something. Then, Jack would have swung into action and would have acquitted himself well.
- Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. Ditto, although I think like me, he probably would have backed the car out of the line of traffic and waited in the parking lot. Hugo was as brave as anyone, but he wasn’t one for confrontation. I am not either. But I also think Hugo, especially if he had kids in the car, would have kept his cool. Maybe he would have said, "Aw, man, I can't believe that guy." But that would have been about it.
- John Locke. Before he wound up on the island, he had a temper. I don’t think things would have gone well with him and the driver. But if the John Locke on the island had encountered this driver… well, it’s still hard to tell. Locke went through a lot of changes over the course of the series. Often, he was about the nicest guy around, but he was very tough. But I remember Locke losing his temper a time or two on the show. He might have gone in the direction I did. So I can’t really see using him as an example of how to model my behavior in this particular situation.
- James “Sawyer” Ford. I have a feeling that if he were in the same situation, he would have at first he smiled and shouted, “Sorry." But knowing Sawyer, I think after a second or two of thinking about it, he would have smiled again and offered a friendly wave with four fingers down. He also probably would have called the driver some colorful insulting nickname. (He did that on the show a lot, though usually in good fun.) From there, I can imagine whatever would have happened wouldn’t have been pretty. If the truck driver had gotten out of his vehicle, Sawyer would have destroyed the guy, but I am not Sawyer. The driver would have destroyed me – in front of my 17-year-old daughter and a sick, 12-year-old dog. Yeah, Sawyer isn't the guy to try to look to as a role model in this type of situation.
- Kate Austen. She isn’t useful to me as a character to model after either. I have a feeling Kate would have glared at the guy and then given the guy a colorful gesture, and things would have deescalated from there. The guy would have been sorry he had messed with Kate, though. She would have left him somewhere on the side of the road, moaning.
- Michael Dawson. He would have argued with the driver. Things would not have gone well, probably for either of them.
- Ben Linus. Like me, he would have backed his car out of the traffic and returned to the parking lot. Unlike me, he then would have followed the car. The driver would have turned up dead somewhere, or maybe he would have awakened in a dark cell. You don’t cross Ben Linus.
- Sayid Jarrah. Oh, he was terrific and one of my (many) favorite characters on the series. But I definitely can’t use Sayid as a role model in how to not get angry when a driver is mean to you. Sayid was an interrogator and torturer in the Iraq War. He worked as an assassin. Sayid would have gone the Jack Shepherd route at first, but if the driver had continued to mess with Sayid, the driver would have not been long for this world.
There are numerous other LOST characters, but I guess I’ve milked this line of thinking enough. I should make it clear – I rarely blow my top. Lorelei later said it was “jarring” to see me like that, and I was relieved she didn’t find it “life as usual.”
But if I ever again find myself angry because some random stranger yells at me for not offering up a thank you wave, I’m going to try and channel Desmond Hume.
Anger Management Tips from Other TV Characters
I could go on about this all day, but don’t worry – I won’t. But if you aren't familiar with LOST, and you're looking for some other TV characters to draw inspiration from when it comes to keeping your cool, a few others immediately come to mind, who would probably be excellent role models for staying calm under pressure.
- Hawkeye Pierce. He was always making jokes in stressful situations on M*A*S*H. That’s definitely an admirable way to go. It helps to have crack scriptwriters handing off those jokes to you, but still…
- Father Mulcahy. Also from M*A*S*H. Father Mulcahy boxed, as a form of exercise but also to relieve tension. Very smart. Even priests can get ticked off.
- The Fonz. He sometimes lost his cool on Happy Days, although, yes, he was always cool. But because he was known for being cool, that probably helped him stay even-tempered. He knew his reputation would suffer if he started flipping out over dumb little things.
- Leslie Knope. On Parks and Recreation, she always wanted to help people. If Leslie had been yelled at by this driver, I have a feeling she would have gotten out of her car and asked if he was having a bad day, and if there was anything she could do to help him make it better. I’m not saying she was a pushover, not at all, but Leslie Knope always assumed the best of people. If you're somebody in need of anger management tips, she would definitely be a go-to role model.
- Mary Richards. Whenever she had a problem on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she would talk things over with friends, and she certainly would if she were angry about something. Definitely a smart strategy if you’re trying to process your anger.
I’m sure there are plenty of other examples that I should add to this list, but if you’re ever looking for even-tempered TV characters to model yourself after, those would be some good ones, I would think. And, of course, Desmond Hume.
So How is Bailey?
I know you’re probably all wondering. He is recovering from what was probably a gastrointestinal issue and is resting comfortably. The father of the family that Lorelei was pet sitting for, he cut his vacation short and flew back home, and so, as you can tell, this is a family that cares about their pets. Maybe an hour after departing the vet, we left Bailey with the dad. Bailey had been having bowel issues and wouldn’t walk for a couple days before we went to the vet (Lorelei was in touch with the vet's office and Bailey's owners that whole time, however), and so Lorelei got a lot of good experience as a pet sitter and did an excellent job taking care of him.
Seriously, an excellent job. I sat in the vet’s exam room, and the vet and Lorelei talked about Bailey at length with Bailey's "mom" on the phone listening in. I contributed nothing to their conversation.
Bailey is a 12-year-old cancer survivor and has arthritis, and the vet did X-rays and couldn’t find anything amiss, fortunately. The TV Professor hopes Bailey has a speedy recovery.
Where you can watch some of these shows (at the time of this writing) for anger management tips: LOST is on Hulu.com if you want to see Desmond Hume in action (the entire series is worth watching and deserved of the hype it has gotten over the years, if you’ve never seen it). That’s also where you’ll find The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H. Parks and Recreation is on PeacockTV.com. Happy Days can be found week nights on the cable channels Me TV and various places (for instance, ParamountPlus has season 2 of Happy Days).
The TV Professor articles that similar to this one on anger management tips: Hard to say, and I haven’t incorporated many anecdotes from my own life into this blog until now. But, hey, you may want to check out a guest post that Lorelei did, about female role models on TV, which I feel is a well written, fun read.