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Road rage

I learned a valuable lesson on the road the other day. Here’s what happened:

I’m stopped at a red light.

I tap along to the song playing in the car as I watch for the green. Usually, nothing of interest happens while I wait for the light to change. 

Today is different; I have front row seats to a brief, dramatic drive-by show.

I see her navigating the intersection. An older woman- she is a prudent driver who sticks to the speed limit as she eases into the right lane. Behind her is a middle-aged fellow in a mad rush. He’s stop-starting, revving and then braking inches behind her.  

She’s calm, with both hands firmly on the wheel and eyes focused on the road. He wildly waves a fist out the window to punctuate the expletives that pour from his mouth as he gears up and screeches around her car.

He’s fuming. 

She’s oblivious.

I’m tickled.

If only I had a video camera and this guy’s address. He obviously doesn’t realise how ridiculous he looked- ignored by the target of his anger; and observed by dozens of amused rush-hour commuters. I hope I remember this scene next time I feel frustrated sitting in the traffic. 

What is it about driving that transforms mild-mannered people into rash road-rage racers?

I know people who are courteous, responsible and family-oriented in real life. On the road, they mutate into monsters. 

How?

It might have to do with our addiction to control. When we take the wheel, we assume control of our vehicle, route, destination, travel time, speed and driving style. This is our journey. 

We forget that we don’t control traffic volumes, red lights or the other commuters. In reality, we regulate very little of the journey. Even Waze can’t protect us from the slow-poke driving the car in front of ours.  

If our trip doesn’t go as expected, we feel upset, sometimes angry or possibly aggressive. All because we believed that we were in control.

It offers an interesting insight into life, this road rage. 

Insist that we’re in control, and we’re likely to feel frustrated. Accept that there will always be variables outside of our control and that our job is to know how to respond to them, and we can remain calm. And happy.

Judaism teaches us that peace of mind relies on two core principles. 

Principle One: G-d is in control.

Principle Two: If we temporarily forget that He is in control, we should refer to Principle One.

About the Author
Rabbi Shishler together with his wife, Naomi and their eight children, runs Chabad of Strathavon in Sandton, South Africa. Rabbi Shishler is a popular teacher who regularly lectures around the globe. he hosts a weekly radio show in South Africa and is the rabbi of Facebook's largest Ask the Rabbi group.
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