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Road Rage


Self portrait with school bus, originally uploaded by A river runs through.

It’s amazing how easily and assuredly we feel the need—no the right—to perpetrate auditory violence against benign strangers. It’s as though the hair trigger response is set casually on the high dial, ready to blow the minute we get behind the wheel of an automobile (AKA The Rage Machine).

One day about two years ago I was driving along Putney Road, minding my own business, and getting ready to cruise down to The Dollar Tree to buy a container for J’s orange juice. A cop at the four-way stop kindly gave me the right of way, and I made a right hand turn out into traffic. Far over to the right—in a different hemisphere altogether, as far as I was concerned—was a school bus with its lights flashing. Please note that I was a full two lanes away, and that traffic was flowing along with a normal, regular rhythm in my lane. All at once I heard the most God-awful honking—and I was transported to rush hour in New Delhi. I didn’t feel in any way connected to the noise and couldn’t help but wonder why some redneck—most likely Tony Testosterone in his Disco Mobile—was raising such a hideous ruckus. I continued driving along in my unobtrusive way, pulling into the lot that housed, among other assorted box stores, The Dollar Tree. I parked in a spot close enough to bundle and trundle J inside.

Suddenly, like a scene straight out of The Dukes of Hazard, a long bed pick-up truck peeled into the parking lot and screeched to a stop behind my car. The automatic window rolled down to expose the angry red face of a man who had apparently forgotten he was a human being.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, lady? You just passed a school bus with its lights flashing,” he yelled from the safety of his enormous truck.

His ugly blue Texas oil driller’s ring glinted angrily in the sunlight. His eyebrows were so inflamed by the direness of my offense that they knitted together in the V-shape of two entangled caterpillars. (I’m sure this is just my imagination, but) his upper eyeteeth had an almost wolfish, canine appearance about them. As though, at any minute, they might start dripping the blood of a recently rendered wild boar. I was momentarily taken aback, and any sound I might have been able to muster seemed suddenly to be choked out of me. I looked at this sub human creature in profound shock and horror. Was he actually talking to me?

“Whh–aaat?” I stuttered helplessly. All of the usual thoughts of one so unfairly assaulted and insulted sprang instantly to mind. What part of the algae-infested swamp had this bottom feeder sprung from? And more importantly, why was he spewing his salmonella all over me? I was also confused. Why was this person taking my alleged offense so deeply personally? Why the need to stalk his prey then wait in the tall grass like a ravenous cheetah? And what made him so certain that I had actually perpetrated this grievous offense?

I might have remembered to ask him these very questions, if I had remembered to behave like a human being myself. If my own hair trigger hadn’t blown the red ball straight off the brand new thermometer.

In an alternate and saner universe, the clever, witty, 20/20 hindsight part of me inquired calmly, even politely: “Sir, have you considered enrolling in an anger management class?”

Alas, the bottom feeder within prevailed.

“Yeah, well fuck you!” I thundered.

I caught a glint of his ugly ring again, this time pressed up against the truck’s side window in a one-finger salute.

“Fuck you, lady!” he yelled as he peeled out of the lot.

“Fuck, fuck,” echoed a small (not yet two year old) voice in the back seat.

Comments

Comment from mark
Time October 8, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Did you know Obama is a Neruda fan?!

So glad to have found your blog, and you. I think you’ll dig nuestra jardin de amapolas rojas a

http://www.redpoppy.net/pablo_neruda.php

vamos obama!
paz, pan, flores, y amor,
mark

Comment from Elefanterosado
Time October 10, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Wonderful to hear from a Neruda scholar. & looking forward to reading your translation…

Comment from Kelly
Time October 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm

In New Mexico, they say “!Obaminos!”

Comment from Elefanterosado
Time October 15, 2008 at 6:52 am

God love you, New Mexico!

Comment from mark
Time October 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I’ve succumbed, especially a couple years ago, to W 04 bumper sticker road rage, although it goes against all my principles of freedom of expression.

by the way, if you want to get my translations, it’d be great to buy it from our site to help support Red Poppy,
http://www.redpoppy.net/pablo_neruda.php

Obaminos!

Comment from Elefanterosado
Time October 15, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Okay Mark, done. I want to donate to Red Poppy anyway. BTW, the sticker on my Passat reads: “Somewhere In Texas There’s A Village Missing An Idiot.” I can’t tell you how many thumbs up I’ve gotten from random strangers!

Comment from mark
Time October 17, 2008 at 3:00 pm

awesome. yeah, we need all the donations and new members we can get right now. we’re hoping for some major grants to come through but that won’t be for a few months and we are seriously scraping the barrel right now!

gracias,
mark

Comment from Elefanterosado
Time October 17, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Now that I’ve figured out all the nifty gadgets there’s a link to your site both on my blog roll and via The Essential Neruda icon. Your site will be an excellent place to do some holiday shopping.:-)

Comment from mark
Time October 19, 2008 at 9:27 pm

you rock, Mary!

gracias, gracias, gracias
and your book is on its way..

mark