When I was a cop, I was dispatched on a “10-50PI” call late one night. Back then, “10-50” meant traffic crash, and “PI” meant “personal injury.” So I rolled fast.

Upon arrival, it was immediately obvious that there wasn’t much “PI” to the 10-50. The same couldn’t be said for the vehicle. It looked like The Hulk had taken it for a test drive.

The badly shaken driver said everything started in Spanish Fork Canyon. “They brighted me,” he said, “so I brighted them back.”

This high-beam light duel (with the usual gestures and brake checking) continued down U.S. 89 until it reached an offramp, where the soon-to-be victim learned an expensive lesson.

He stopped behind a line of cars at the end of the ramp. His playmates pulled behind, trapping him.

Several sturdy bangers with crowbars and baseball bats got out and proceeded to tune up his ride, bashing out his windows, slashing tires, and beating huge dents in the body.

The final indignity to the victim was having his head yanked out the window by his hair and informed that this is what happens when the [insert gang name here] was disrespected. Then they left.

One of the biggest problems with road rage is not knowing whom the hell you’re engaging with, or what they might be capable of doing.

In 1972, Bammer and I were cruising State Street in his Camaro (before he totaled it). Young, dim, more than a little baked, and holding, we were minding our own business when Bammer carelessly cut off another car in traffic.

When the driver of the other car honked in protest, Bammer hung a finger out the window. Things got tense when the car pulled alongside us at a stoplight. Inside were three guys and a woman.

Feeling secure with our windows rolled up, we shouted rude things about their mothers and made more gestures. The occupants didn’t return the gestures or even appear angry. Instead, they just stared at us … then slowly raised four police badges.

Ever notice how fast your ability to swallow will disappear while at the other end of the line things simultaneously get a lot looser?

We were lucky. The narcs must have had bigger fish to catch that night. When the light turned green, they drove away. Bammer and I pulled over to the curb and had ourselves a good cry.

A similar standoff happened the other day at the grocery store. I pulled out of a parking space without paying attention. A truck coming from my right honked.

I raised my hands in surrender to let the driver know it was my bad. That wasn’t enough for the driver. She leaned out her window and made a snarly face and a rude gesture before proceeding on in a huff.

As luck would have it, I pulled next to her at the light, rolled down my passenger-side window, and apologized. She was still pissed, and huffed, “You need to be more careful, Sir.

She was right, but only by half. I wasn’t the only one needing to be careful. She probably saw an old coot behind the wheel and figured she would give him a driving lesson.

But what if the old coot had no respect for human life, nothing to live for, and a gun in his lap?

Please be careful. Conditions are tough enough right now without running the risk of making them worse by behaving childishly when you don’t know the odds. Let’s do our best to cut one another some slack. We’ll need more of it before things get better.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.