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I’ve got a major road rage problem. Ever since I first got my driver’s license, my anger behind the wheel has grown worse and worse. It’s gotten so bad that my girlfriend won’t let me drive her around any more, and even my friends are freaked out. And even when someone else drives, I still can’t help cursing out other drivers and screaming the whole time. It feels like being on the road is a battle and every other vehicle is my mortal enemy. It’s really draining and puts me in a bad mood that lasts long after I get out of the car. Yesterday I punched my car’s ceiling so hard that I put a dent in it and badly bruised my hand. I’ve never had an actual car accident, but I’ve had a few violent confrontations with other drivers and I can see this whole thing ending badly. Meanwhile, it’s just making me a miserable person. How do I become a peaceful driver?
Thanks for your help, Road Rage Fink
Dear Road Rage Fink,
Driving, by its very nature, isn’t really peaceful. I’m actually writing this response while riding in a car. We’re hurdling across the landscape over a concrete slab, in a metal container being propelled by thousands of contained explosions. While there is a meditative state that occurs while driving, especially over time when the techniques of maneuvering the vehicle are second nature, we should never forget how inherently intense and violent the entire experience is. Next time you’re in a car, look out the side window at how fast the road is flying by. And if you’re someone who has been fortunate enough to survive one of the millions of accidents that have taken place since the invention of the car, you’re already well aware of just how nightmarish cars can be. Few inventions have had a more beneficial and simultaneously dehumanizing impact on daily life than motor vehicles. While automobiles are beautiful and helpful in connecting us with the world, they have also had an equally deep and disorienting effect on human perception and social behavior.
People behave in ways towards other people in cars that they never would dream of when outside of cars. If we’re walking down the street amongst a crowd of other folks, there’s an entirely different dynamic to the interaction as well as the way we feel about the people around us and their conduct. Automobiles have a personality of their own that we experience separately from the people they contain. The human beings inside become an abstraction or an idea of a person, almost like a toy has been placed in the driver’s seat just to make it seem like someone is in control. A car is a moving room that contains us and confines us, and while we feel we are in control of the vehicle, and that it is confining us for our own safety, it also results in an incredibly influential distortion of how we experience the world.