It's a modern day nightmare.
You are driving, or perhaps you are about to park. Someone cuts you off, or steals your spot. You honk with fervor. You gesture. You yell an obscenity from the inside of your car. And as you ultimately pass the other driver by, you go to give them a dirty look and....
You know them.
I should start by saying that this has never happened to me. But I'm always scared it will. I usually have a brief moment of panic right after the road rage incident where I think, Uh oh, I think I know that car. I have been spared the humiliation (though I can't say the same for my husband, but that incident will remain in the vault).
It's a weird and universal phenomenon.
No matter people's natural inclination, if they are going to be rude, they tend to be rude to strangers. It's not just with road rage, it's on an airplane. On a telemarketing call. Waiting in any long line. Navigating a crowded grocery store. (As an aside, I once had a postal worker yell at me (and I mean yell) when I carried my then puppy in with me to the post office in a carrier. She made me cry, hard, for some odd reason.)
There are many opportunities for anonymous hostility, but I think the most highly populated avenue is the internet.
If you ever want to question humanity, go to the website, DC Urban Moms. It's a website that has a number of discussion forums on all things related to parenthood, and then some. For the past few years, I have frequented this website often, sometimes posting questions and other times responding to others. Most of the discussions are friendly, helpful, and at times entertaining. But some.... Some responses are hateful and spiteful and vengeful. I read them and wonder why. Who is this person? Were they having a bad day? Are they generally miserable? Bored? Just plain mean? Do their friends and loved ones know that they say such things to random strangers?
Visiting that website was my first introduction to the perils of internet anonymity, but of course it really hit home when I started my blog. I haven't made it a secret that sometimes I get some pretty nasty anonymous comments. I even devoted a whole post to it way back when, before I developed some thicker skin. I get it - I am putting myself out there in a public forum, so obviously I am vulnerable to some criticism. But sometimes the true, personal, hate from anonymous people that I don't know shocks me. And sometimes I wonder....
Do I know these people? What would these people say to me if they met me? Would they be rude to my face? Or would they be polite, and hide their true feelings? I tend to think the latter. It seems that people, including myself, tend to be a lot ruder when they are hiding behind some kind of anonymous veil - whether that be the wheel of a car, or an internet screen.
Braden is at the age now where we talk a lot about how we treat people. I try to teach him to be nice to everyone, to treat everyone with respect, and to treat people as he would want to be treated. But do we, as adults do that? Definitely not.
I am certainly no saint myself. Just last night, I hung up on a telemarketer mid-sentence. That person has a life, a family, interests, hobbies, and feelings. That really wasn't necessary on my part.
I'm sorry about that.
I'm not perfect. But I am a nice person. I think most people are if you meet them in person - even the anonymous nasty blog commenters and that random old lady that cursed at me a few months ago.
But it seems that it is all to easy to jump at the opportunity to be mean when no one is watching.