Your true character is revealed to you when you’re anonymous. Do you like what you see?
A good clue is in your rear-view mirror. How have you acted when operating motor vehicles? If you are rude, inconsiderate and intimidating, you can’t be proud of yourself, assuming you have normal mental health.
I consider driving a litmus test because, except for peace officers who can identify license plates, people are anonymous.
A half-century ago, I happened to follow a family going home from church on a Sunday afternoon. With Bibles tossed in the back window of the vehicle, they ate their fast food lunch as they drove along.
Suddenly, empty bags came flying out windows. Then food wrappers. Then cups and straws. Soon, all their trash was on the shoulders of the highway. What a foul Christian witness to be remembered all these years. Anonymity allowed the family members to do what they wouldn’t have done in the presence of their friends at church.
In informal findings, I’ve concluded perhaps 40 percent of drivers are rude, 40 percent are ignorant of what’s considerate and 20 percent are thoughtful and courteous.
When I had a motorcycle, I’d move over to the right side of my lane near the shoulder to make plenty of space for a car to pass in the passing lane. But time and again, cars would pass with half their cars remaining in the right lane with me. Just a bump to the handle bars would have been sufficient for me to have been run over or sideswiped.
On the way to New Braunfels, a woman passed me on the shoulder of the highway, both of us traveling 55 mph.
Between Fredericksburg and Kerrville, a man passed on the shoulder, again both vehicles traveling at highway speeds.
Cycling in West Texas, returning from Pecos, the speed limit was 80. I was exhilarated by the gorgeous riding weather and the open road; five to 10 minutes passed without me seeing another vehicle.
But then in the middle of nowhere, I saw a single car accelerating in the lane merging into the freeway. I had a premonition, “As idiotic as it might be, that car is going to hit me.”
Sure, enough. The driver didn’t yield and feigned to sideswipe me. Mentally alerted, I was prepared for evasive action. I firmly applied both brakes to avoid a skid as I took the shoulder.
“If you signal to get over, drivers in that lane speed up to cut you off; Houston drivers are so rude!” said a friend visiting from Massachusetts.
Why is it, I wonder, that people in the Brazosport area have begun to mimic Houston drivers since our freeway’s completion? You’d think we locals would express home-town favor toward each other … right?
When going to Houston and other drivers want to take the Angleton exit to Highway 35, they speed up and intrude in front of you to take the exit, rather than drift behind you to take the exit.
Another problem that often occurs is drivers intimidating you by sitting on your back bumper to bully you into pulling over so they can charge ahead.
From a previous column, I think it’s a hoot when drivers tailgate you to a traffic light that is red. Do they think the 15 feet your car occupies is a do-or-die gain?
When merging on the freeway, drivers merging behind you cross the do-not-cross lines to intrude ahead of you. They depend on you to be more courteous than them and yield to their intrusions. Otherwise, crash!
Drivers exit the freeway near Luby’s and First National Bank at breakneck speeds. If you ease out in front of them at safe distances, they brake, crowding you, or blare their mufflers to scold you.
Oh, and the intersection under the freeway at Highway 332 and Oyster Creek Drive is like SCUDmissileville. Drivers taking the U-turn, turning off Oyster Creek Drive and drivers coming off the freeway seem whacked-out — possessed with “don’t you dare get in front of me.”
Once again, true character is revealed when anonymous. Fix road rudeness with the Golden Rule of Jesus, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
Smile. When I fill up beside someone with a jacked-up truck, I start a conversation with him or her. I say, “Do you know what it means to have a truck as huge and beautiful as yours? It means that you are to be the most courteous and considerate because you’re big and bad.” The conversation goes well.