Brodi Ashton: If you flip the bird and no one is around to see it, does it make the driver you targeted any less of a jerk?

Brodi Ashton

It was safe to say, I had the rage of the road. But it might not be for the usual reasons that come to mind.
The other day, I was in a left turn lane. The car in front of me turned left, and it looked like I had a clear path. I barely tapped on the gas when I saw a car coming toward me. I stepped on the brake. I had moved maybe two inches.
I was not in his way yet. Even so, I put my hand up so he would know that I saw him.
I know it was a “him” because I could see his face. As he went through the intersection, he pointed a finger at me, and then did an exaggerated wag back and forth, like he was Dikembe Mutombo denying a basket.
He had passed by before I could respond. All he saw was an apologetic wave.
I couldn’t believe it. I had just been finger-wagged for doing something totally responsible like stopping and waving. Not only that, it had been by a slick guy in a red and black sports car, with chrome in all the right parts. The car, not the man.
The car was definitely compensating for something — probably small shoes.
So here’s where my rage crept in to my heart like a bowling ball thrown by Nolan Ryan. (What’s that, you say? Two sports analogies in one column? You bet your Dr. Dunkenstein’s, I did.)
The man passed by before I was able to give him the finger. This affected me in a way that I had not expected. I like to think of myself as an even-keeled person, although previous boyfriends would disagree. But most other people who know me, I think, would say I wasn’t necessarily quick to anger.

And yet, I wanted to turn my car around, chase his stupid overly chromed car and hair down, and explain to him that had I known he would be a jerk, I would not have waved. I would have given him the bird, because I’m a quick draw when it comes to a well-deserved bird.
Which, if you have to track down a driver and explain to him your intentions of flipping of the bird, and how you had gone from gracious driver to raging lunatic but he didn’t have the chance to see it, the obscenity might lose its power. Kind of like explaining why a joke is funny. Middle fingers shouldn’t have to be explained after the fact.
So I took some deep breaths and thought about my therapist’s advice when I told her of my fantasy to leave everything behind and change my name to Phyllis and move to Tahiti.
She forced me to follow through on that scenario. How would you pay for it? Would you sell your house first? What about your kids? That one always brings me back to reality.
So, back to the road rage. What if I turned around and followed him? What if I got him to stop so I could explain the sheer terror that should have rained down on him by me giving him the bird?
Probably not a good idea.
So I found solace in going home to my kids and insisting that from now on, they call me Phyllis. At least this way, there wouldn’t be any violence.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.
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