NICE GIRL: Hell on Wheels

I recently had a near death experience. Okay, not in the classic sense. I didn't see a blinding light or bump into dearly departed loved ones. I didn't even actually get hurt. But I sure did have the bejesus scared out of me.I was driving along Falls Road and this guy in a rusty, ol' muscle car started pulling out of a parking spot along side the street. There was no turn signal involved. And as far as I could tell, no use of the side or rear view mirrors. Let's just put it like this: He didn't give a rat's ass who was in his way.So just to recap:Me: Minding my own beeswax as I head down the road.Him: Never took driver's ed.Suddenly this muscle car was coming right at me. In order to avoid hitting him I'd have to either come to screeching stop, or swerve into oncoming traffic (Falls is two-way), or do what I did: lay on the horn. Loud.Of course, he flagrantly ignored my horn and starting pulling right into me. I did have to screech on my brakes. I lurched forward in my seat. (This is not the near death part yet).So now this turd was in front of me. I suppose I could've just let things rest. I was alive. No harm done. Instead, I did what any red-blooded, healthy American girl would do in this situation. I lay on the horn again.The last time I honked my horn I was in a self-protection mode. This time it was definitely punitive. If my horn could talk it would be yelling: Are you insane!! Are you trying to kill us all?Mr. Muscle Car didn't like this. Not one bit. He stopped his car, dead in the middle of the road. He was challenging me. Now, at this point, I should've used my head. I should've thought to myself: Max, this is no garden-variety lousy driver. This is a certifiable maniac. I should've gotten docile, slumped apologetically in my driver's seat and waited for the whole thing to blow over. Once he realized how truly sorry I was, he'd drive off.But I didn't. I honked again. (This is the third honk for those keeping score at home.)Oh, by the way, the madman was not alone. He had two leering buddies peering out the back window (the sort of guys who are always peering out of the back seat of a rusty muscle car.)Anyway, before I knew what was happening, the madman was coming toward me. He was mean. He was ugly. He had a crowbar in his hand. His buddies were pleased as punch.I am proud to report that at this defining life moment, I did not panic. Nay, a kind of strange surreal calm washed over me. The maniac seemed to be approaching in slow-motion. I was preparing for a death in a very zen-like way.I am less than proud to report that I took no action. I've heard that in moments of extreme duress, people have tapped into undiscovered wells of strength and resourcefulness. I was more like the proverbial deer trapped in the head lights.I think he was taken aback by my diminutive stature (5'2") and the fact that I am a girl. Because when he got to my car window, crow-bar poised menacingly over his head, veins bulging in his neck, he stared at me in frank disappointment. If he beat the crap out of a girl, his friends might call him a sissy. So with all of his pent up rage he shouted an expletive too crass for my delicate readership, got back into his car and drove off. Giant exhale. Thank you lord, I am alive.Moral of the story? Well, there isn't one. You see, right before the crowbar incident, I'd been learning to confront the angry driver within. Once was a time when I wouldn't have just honked at the guy, I would've flipped him the bird, and shouted unlady-like obscenities. That would've really mollified the situation.There's something about cars -- maybe the fact that they're these little sensory deprivation chambers, or the fact that my choice of musical accompaniment tends to be of the loud and throbbing variety -- that really brings out the worst in me. I turn into Ugly Max, this completely unreasonable creature who is prone to gross overreaction, inappropriate rage, and combative behavior.Ugly Max slows to a near crawl when someone flashes their high beams at her. Ugly Max speeds up and commences to tailgate anyone who has just wronged her on the highway. Just try to steal a parking space from Ugly Max. There will be hell to pay.I began to realize how potentially embarrassing this sort of behavior was to my reputation. I mean, what if I had some sort of run-in with, like, one of my mom's coworkers?"Oh, I saw your charming daughter on the highway today. She gave me the finger and called me an Old Bag."Not to mention the fact that everyone was always telling me how dangerous my actions were. "Someone could pull out a gun!" they would cry. Or a crowbar. I secretly knew they were right. Anyway, it's not like I was proud of this behavior. It was just some sort of weird, primal, cavegirl thing.So this is the biggest joke of all, the O'Henryesque twist, if you will. Here I am, kinder, gentler Max -- a Max who gives right of way, who thinks nothing but shiny, happy, motorist thoughts -- and I still almost get killed.Maybe I should start some sort of motorist self-help program. I could print up a 12-Steps to happy trails sort of thing. Then when the lunatic approached my car, I could've handed him a pamphlet and said, "Don't worry, friend. I feel your pain."

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