(This was an article I wrote for OdysseyOnLine in 2016)
Yes, I am angry-pissed off-frustrated-annoyed-fuming-livid and just plain mad. I am sick and tired of road bullies terrorizing others. Let me explain.
I am not going to pretend to understand math and science. Specifically, I am not going to pretend that I can explain physics. What I do know is that physics is a science using math to explain things like motion, gravity, space, and all things over which I have no control. Yet, some of the basic ideas in physics appear to be somewhat logical even to me.
I am also not going to pretend to understand aggressive drivers and road rage. “An estimated eight million drivers admit to more extreme behavior, according to new AAA research. Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.” None of this seems logical to me.
What I do know about road rage and aggressive drivers is that most of them appear to be men in big trucks, mixed with the occasional middle-aged woman in a minivan or large SUV. I have no statistics to prove this, just my careful observation.
The aggressive behavior I most often encounter is tailgating. No, I am not referring to the cookout and beer drinking events before football games and concerts. I am talking about the driver who pulls within less than one car length of your rear bumper in a vain attempt to make you drive faster or get out of their way. I simply want to ask them, “Who elected you king of the road?” or more directly, “What the heck do you think you are doing?”
Back to physics for a moment. Newton developed three laws of motion that can be applied directly to the problem at hand.
*Newton ‘s First Law of Motion:
Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.
*Newton’s Second Law of Motion
F=MA Force = Mass Acceleration The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.
*Newton’s Third Law of Motion
To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.
I will be so bold as to interpret Newton’s laws of motion as applied to aggressive drivers who tailgate. When a vehicle tailgates another vehicle it “compels” the other vehicle using external force (hitting it) and changes it action (direction and shape). When a vehicle is tailgating, the size and speed of the vehicle determine how much damage is done to the vehicle it hits. The opposite and equal reaction of being hit from behind by a vehicle they exert a force on each other. People are hurt and vehicles are damaged.
Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” explains it best:
Sheldon: Look, you’re not leaving yourself enough space between cars.
Penny: Oh, sure I am.
Sheldon: No, no. Let me do the math for you, this car weighs let’s say 4,000lb, now add say 140 for me, 120 for you.
Sheldon: Oh, I’m sorry, did I insult you? Is your body mass somehow tied into your self-worth?
Penny: Well, yeah.
Sheldon: Interesting. Anyway, that gives us a total weight of, let’s say, 4,400lb.
Penny: Let’s say 4,390.
Sheldon: Fine. We’re traveling forward at, good Lord, 51 miles an hour. Now let’s assume that your brakes are new and the calipers are aligned, still, by the time we come to a stop, we’ll be occupying the same space as that Buick in front of us, an impossibility that nature will quickly resolve into death, mutilation and… oh look, they built a new put-put course.
— Big Bang Theory Series 01 Episode 04 – “The Luminous Fish Effect”
Why am I ranting about this you might wonder? Four years ago, I was involved in a five-car accident that resulted from someone in a larger vehicle following too close at a high rate of speed. It resulted in injuries and damages to all cars involved. After four years, we are still in litigation over this. All because someone was being a bully on the road. Yes, I said bully, because in my opinion drivers who tailgate others are intending to intimidate them to get their way. That says bully to me.
If you should happen to encounter me on the road and decide you want to tailgate me, I will slow down and stare you down from my mirrors until you back off. It is not your road. You do not control how I drive or how fast I go. No, I am not going too slow. I am obeying the LAW that tells all drivers how fast they may go. You are breaking the law by speeding and by tailgating. You are not more important than anyone else on the road…really…you aren’t.
So JUST STOP IT!
One day you will hit someone from the rear. You might be injured and your vehicle might be destroyed. You will certainly cause damage to the vehicle you hit and may cause pain and suffering to the people in the car or cars in front of you. You may lose your life or cause the death of another. For the love of all that is good, just leave a few minutes earlier. Take a deep breath. You will arrive at your destination without creating chaos on the road.
I am going to assume my ranting will not change the driving habits of most people reading this. I only hope that some of you will understand and perhaps think about the way you drive. The next time you are driving and are tempted to pull up close enough to the car in front of you so you can see the eyes of the driver in their rear view mirror, remember Newton’s Laws and South Carolina law.
From the SC DMV Driver’s Handbook: (A ticket for following too closely is 4 points)
Following Other Cars Rear-end crashes are very common at intersections and they can be avoided. The leading cause for these crashes is following other vehicles too closely. When following another vehicle on any street or highway, use a minimum of three to four second following interval. If any unusual conditions exist, such as rainy weather or increased traffic, add an additional second. To give yourself a three to four second following distance from the vehicle ahead of you, watch as the vehicle passes a stationary object such as a sign, pole or tree. Count the seconds it takes you to reach that the same point (“One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three). If you pass the object before you finish counting, you are following too closely. Always drive more slowly and allow more following distance when pavement is wet or icy and when driving in fog.
I need to make a confession. Late last year, I surrendered to the pressure of my classmates and watched the Netflix Sci-Fi series Stranger Things. It is a Stephen King’ish scenario set in the 80’s. In season one, a young boy disappears, and his friends soon discover that he has been taken to the “upside down.” The “upside down” is a parallel dimension to our world; it is a dimension that is a dark reflection of our world filled with monsters and despair. Spoiler Alert! The young boy does get rescued and returned to the world as we know it because of the efforts of his family and friends. However, there were still things that haunted him from the “upside down.”
I could spend some time presenting the spiritual and religious allegories of the show, but I will save that for another time. Several theologians have written about it already. I am more interested in the “upside down” because I found myself trapped in a place very much like it. My world had become dark, filled with hopelessness, and haunted by monsters that I didn’t want to go on. In late February, 31 one years ago, I felt there was no way out. I decided to end my life. The sermon in church today reminded me of this time in my life.
Much like the young boy in Stranger Things, I would be rescued. My rescue came from strangers at first, not family and friends. I had driven them all away. I was really alone, or so I thought. I knew God thought I was a hopeless case and had moved on to other things. I had one person who still accepted my calls. She was a friend from seminary days and a pastor of a small church in Maryland. Drunk and angry, I called her at 2:00 am. It seemed she was finished with me, just like God. She told me she could not go through this with me any longer. She made me write a phone number down and promise to call it. Then she hung up. I was devastated. I just told her I was trying to kill myself. How could she hang up on me? (I had no way of knowing that she had been going to AlAnon.)
I don’t know why I made the call to the number she gave me, but the Hotline counselor stayed on the phone with me until dawn. It was the beginning of my rescue from the “upside down.” Because of that call, I found my way to a therapist, who after two years of therapy would become my closest friend, confidant, spiritual mentor, and guide for the next eighteen years. I became part of the fellowship of a twelve-step program where strangers became a family who showed me that God still and had always loved me.
Although I have never returned to the “upside down,” I know it still exists. Many are trapped there without any hope. I often share my story with others, and I write about it on this blog because I want those who have lost faith to see that there is life on the other side. I want them to hear someone say that God always has and still loves them.
I have been given everything back everything I lost and more. I was blessed for many years with a job working on staff for the same type of Hotline that I had called. I was able to listen and talk with those who had lost hope. I am now in college about to finish my undergrad degree, hoping to pursue my masters, and begin a journey to follow where God is calling me. I am going to begin even though I am not sure where that journey will lead. I have genuine friendships, a family that continues to grow, and on top of it all, I have peace and serenity knowing that God is with me.
During this time of year, I hold tightly to my faith. While I escaped the “upside down,” much like the young boy I am sometimes still haunted by memories. As February ends, and March comes in to welcome spring, I am faced with the tenth anniversary of the death of the woman who was my closest friend as well as the anniversary of the death of Mama Pearl. Mama Pearl was a second mother to me throughout my life. While there is profound pain in these memories, there is joy in my remembrances of them. They will be with me in spirit as I celebrate 31 years of continuous sobriety in April.
I got lost in the “upside down” a long time ago, but God pulled me back through grace and love. I know I never have to return-even during periods of questioning or suffering. Anne Lamott wrote, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” God met me in a place of darkness and despair and brought me out into a new life. I am excited to see where God leads me next.
I have been thinking a lot about recent events, both private and public. Don’t tell anyone, but I am sixty-six years old and, in a week, will become a great-grandmother. I am going to take a moment here to pause because I still have a hard time saying and accepting that. My life has had many twists and turns along what Robert Frost describes as the road less traveled. I have been standing at an intersection recently, but have made a decision to follow a path where I feel led.
So many times in my life, I have chosen to stand and wait, offering only “thoughts and prayers” to my journey. While taking time to think and pray before acting is essential, often I stop short of doing anything. I have been reminded that choosing to do nothing is a choice. This is true not only of my life journey but in my day to day actions as well.
The facebook posts after the school shooting last week followed the same pattern as other such tragedies. Posts offering “thoughts and prayers” follow shock and anger. Heated debate and name calling are next to appear. Soon everyone forgets as we await the next shooting or child abduction or horrific stories of abuse. Please hear me as I say that prayer is powerful and much needed. Yet, I have to ask if it is enough. I was reminded of a story that still haunts me.
A few years ago, I was driving on a busy four-lane highway to my church prayer lunch. The road is one where no one slows down for anything. People pass and bounce from lane to lane without the benefit of blinkers or common sense. As I made my way to church, suddenly the tail lights on the cars ahead of me flashed red as cars in both lanes came to a sudden stop.
I tried to see what caused the delay when I saw what looked like the front of a broken shopping cart coming across the front of the line of cars. I was surprised as I saw a broken walker being pushed by an elderly man. He walked so slowly that I wasn’t sure how he got into the road at all since traffic is usually constant. He had only one good arm; the other seemed to be at an angle as if he had an injury or perhaps the remnants of a stroke. He walked with a bit of a limp, as well. The walker had front wheels, but there were no wheels on the back. He made it past the cars reaching the safety of the grass median. However, the grassy area seemed to make it harder for him to push and maneuver.
My heart ached as a watched his broken body push the feeble walker. There was no expression in his eyes or face. It appeared that his spirit was broken as badly as his body. As the cars began to move, I felt a battle raging in my heart and head. I wanted more than anything to pull my car into the grass and see if I could help him. The logical side of my brain wondered how in the world I could help. What if he was violent? What if he was mentally ill and didn’t understand my gesture or offer of help? What if he was ill and I was exposed? Would I offer him a ride? What would I say?
I pulled into a parking lot for a down the road to think for a moment. I fought tears as I wondered if this man had family or food or a place to stay. I certainly had nothing I could offer him. My finances were already limited without trying to help someone else. Maybe I could go back and just say a kind word to him. The logical side of my mind asked what good that would do. Sure, go and say, “Hi, I saw you struggling to get across the road. I don’t have any way to help you but just wanted to say Howdy!”
In the end, I didn’t turn around even though I felt led to do so. I don’t know why this man touched my heart the way he did. I did say a prayer for him. I believe in the power of prayer. There have been many times in my life where I felt so very broken, and I prayed for someone to reach out to me. I am so grateful for the people who took time to pray for me, talk to me, and help me. How could I not return what had been so freely given to me?
I don’t know the life journey of the man I saw that day. I don’t know if he had friends or family or anyone to help him in his brokenness. All I did for him that day was pray. I know in my heart praying wasn’t enough.
Matthew West’s song “Do Something” encourages us to take the time to do something for others: I Said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, yeah, I created you.”
None of us can solve all of the world’s problems. None can address every issue or the challenges faced by others. Yet, each of us can find a way to take action. Yes, I pray and continue in prayer. I didn’t stop and help a broken man a few years ago, but I choose today to offer my thoughts and prayers – and then I take the next step. I find a way to do the next right thing to try and make a difference.
Click here to read my post for OdysseyOnLine at Clemson
“I took a quick step back in order to take a second look. I was shocked to see a rat in the bushes. It was not a cute rat like the one I used for this article. That was simply a ploy to encourage you to click and read the article. No, it was a dead rat – yes, dead as a doornail rat.”
I wrote an article about the conversations that have been happening after #MeToo starting appearing on social media.
I admit it – I get a bit nervous about any cosmic event. Read the post in the link above.
Read this post here.
There are things I could never imagine happening to me. That is saying a lot considering I have a highly overactive imagination. I can imagine an asteroid crashing into earth close my home. My friends will tell you that they are not allowed to mention comets, or meteor showers, or a protentional eclipse. I can imagine a tsunami wiping out a beach as I sit in the sand. I can envision an earthquake while I am in a three story building. I am afraid that someone might break into the house when I am all alone and taking a shower (that might just be a throwback to Psycho). I can even imagine how our country might look like after the current elections. Yet, I could never have believed what would happen this week.
I arrived at my class at school, and we began a group team building exercise. The instructions were simple. Everyone was to stand in a large circle. The professor would read a statement, and everyone would quickly, without much thought or hesitation, step into the circle to the extent that they agreed with the statement. If you strongly agreed with the statement, you would walk into the center of the circle. If you slightly agreed, you would only take a small step or two in the circle. If you strongly disagreed, you would stand in place and so on.
The first statements were innocuous.
“I like chocolate.” Almost everyone was in the center of the circle.
“I like pizza.” People were a bit more spread out on this one.
“I am a dog person.” “I am a cat person.” There were some strong feelings on this one.
The statements then focused more on issues.
“I am a feminist.”
“I believe everyone has the same access to prosperity.”
“I believe everyone should have equal access to education.”
With each of these statements, everyone in the group shared the same opinion. We all appeared to be on the same page when it came to social issues and ideals.
After each statement, the professor would ask us to return to the circle if we had moved. After a few more statements, I heard this one.
“I believe in God.”
Without hesitation, I began my first step into the circle. As I moved, I suddenly became aware that no one else was moving. I hesitated for a split second. Do I keep going? Surely everyone is thinking about the question and will be stepping in. Maybe they are just waiting for the others. I took another step. The room was silent and still.
I kept taking steps towards the center of the circle. I could only see those in front of me or just to my side. Everyone was looking at me in the circle, but no one looked me in the eyes. I felt alone and exposed. I thought of the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultery. Everyone circled around her, pointed fingers, and said she should be stoned. Could this really be happening? I just wanted the professor to direct me back to my spot in the circle.
We quickly moved on to our next activity. I don’t remember much about what we did the rest of the class. I still felt as if I was standing alone in the middle of the circle. That feeling would stay with me for a while; in fact, I am still carrying a bit of it with me as I write.
I would not have been surprised if no moved into the circle had the statement been, “I am a Christian” or “I am religious” or “I go to church.” I know many people who want nothing to do with organized religion. I understand those who have questions about faith. I certainly have many questions about God, the church, the Bible, and theology. I am still shaken by the fact that no one moved into the circle. Even if someone had moved just a step or two into the circle, it would have been easier to understand. How could these people who share the same values about social issues and social justice not believe in God?
I have been thinking about this all week. As I began to process this, I looked at the world and the events of the past years. I remember bombings and killings in the name of God. I saw religious people who hated those who are different, people who say that God hates those who are aren’t like them, people who claim to follow God but turn their back on the poor, sick, and lonely. Politicians have been throwing around claims about God for months. Churches are splitting because they can’t agree to love one another any longer because of issues surrounding race, gender, who you can love or which bathroom people can use.
I must wonder if these bright, talented, young people I know, who want to change the world, look at all of this and decide that God can’t exist. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller writes about his experience at Reed College, a secular liberal arts college in Oregon. He and a few Christian friends discuss a way to talk to people on campus about their faith since students seemed hostile to their views. They come up with an idea to offer a confession to the other students. The confession below expresses what I have been thinking:
“So this group of us on campus wanted to confess to you,” Donald said.
“You are confessing to me!” Jake said with a laugh.
“Yeah. We are confessing to you. I mean, I am confessing to you.”
“You’re serious.” His laugh turned to something of a straight face.
“There’s a lot. I will keep it short,” Donald started. “The thing is, we are followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and all, and he represented certain ideas that we have sort of not done a good job at representing. He has asked us to represent him well, but it can be very hard. Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus didn’t mix spirituality with theology. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, too.”
There is a lot more! I want to confess and apologize for not always carrying the message of Christ in my life, but I am going to keep trying.
It is time for me to live up the title of my blog/website…Cathy’s Voice Now…and use my voice regardless of how you choose to view me. I often hold back expressing my views; You see, I want you to like me. I have written blog posts only to hide them in drafts because I was concerned about how I would be perceived.
Today, I need to say what I believe and share it in this post. The anniversary of Mother Emmanuel AME shooting, the ongoing story of a man who raped a young woman while a judge thinks it was “boys being boys”, and now the Orlando shooting has hurt my heart. I can’t hide behind my fear of what you might think of me.
A Sacramento pastor responded to the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people and injured 50 more with praise, stating “they deserve what they got.” Another statement, “Claiming homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts,” Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated the Orlando nightclub shooting.
I believe that hate is fueled when we see others as different from ourselves. We might believe they have it better than we do or that we are better than they are. We think our religious views are the only ones with merit. We believe the color of our skin, our gender, or sexual orientation makes us superior to others. When we see people as a race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it is easier to hate because we no longer see the essence or soul of that human being.
I have many people in my circle of friends and acquaintances. What I don’t have are gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Buddhist friends, Jewish friends, handicapped friends, liberal friends, conservative friends….you get the idea. I simply have friends.
While many of my friends may identify with those labels, that isn’t who they are. It doesn’t define the relationship we share. It doesn’t change who they are in their heart and soul. If I start identifying them by a label, I lose the person I know.
Here are my labels…white, straight, Christian, old, liberal, intelligent, a writer, an actor, a student, mother, grandmother, a feminist, recovering alcoholic, and more. In my lifetime, I have also been labeled a drunk, a heretic, fat, irresponsible, just a woman, or stupid. If you know me, then you know ME, not my labels.
If we continue to label people, we are contributing to an environment of hate. This time the “homosexuals” were attacked and murdered. The shooter didn’t see the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sports enthusiasts, teachers, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement, military, or anything else beyond the LABEL. Some hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, poor, rich, white, women, and a multitude of other “labels”. They do not look beyond the LABEL. All they see is “other.”
Maybe next year it will be older white women with blue eyes. Sound preposterous? Couldn’t happen? Are you sure? No one ever imaged hated so deep it could kill almost 6 million Jewish men, women, and children. No one believed a person could hate enough to walk into a church and kill people in prayers. No one wants to believe a single shooter hated enough to kill and injury close to 100 people.
Hate knows no boundaries.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. Lin-Manuel Miranda 2016