Friday, June 30, 2006


Driving home on the freeway today I was closely tailgated by a car whose occupants flipped me the bird - probably because I had done the same to them; I hate being tailgated - and then pulled up alongside me and mouthed unkind words to me. You can imagine what the words were. They were two young men, in their late teens or early twenties, and it struck me that they were probably very much like the fathers of many of my patients.

In a way I feel sorry for these guys. I know they are raised in less than optimal circumstances. They don't have nice homes, their parents probably didn't read to them much, and they were probably spoken to harshly as little kids. I've heard the way some of my parents speak to their young children. Also, I'm thinking there were probably not a lot of positive male role models for these kids as they grew up. Their car was pretty old and crummy and there's a good chance their vehicles will remain that way throughout their lives.

But another part of my brain wasn't so charitable and just thought of them as punks. They likely won't have or haven't had the modest amount of perserverance it takes to finish high school - less than 30% of the kids in my town who start high school finish it in four years - so will probably have crummy jobs, or no job, for much of the rest of their lives, . They think little of fathering children and expect the woman to worry about birth control, babies, and sexually transmitted diseases. They'll adopt the attitude that they are owed respect, even though they haven't done anything to earn it.

There's probably some truth in both the ways I think about them. I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that some of my patients today are tomorrow's reprobates. I take comfort, though, in the knowledge that some kids beat the odds and turn out well. Besides, everyone deserves some dignity and respect, just for being human. But I've got to stop giving people the finger, before I get shot or run off the road.


Blogger Ex Utero said...

Somehow that visual is very humanizing. I'm working on not saying a certain favorite string of four letter words aroung my children when I'm angry. I'm not angry often, so when I am it just slips out.

Anger management, it's not just for probates.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Surgeon in my dreams said...

Road rage is very prevalent in this hell hole I moved to 6 years ago. Never having been a "city girl" it may be this way in most places and I am just ignorant of that fact, but where I came from people are nice.

They will actually slow down to let you in the road if you're sitting in a parking lot trying to get out into traffic. Literally wave you in.

If you're driving slow enough to be tailgated back in my home town, it is likely someone will pull up along side you and ask if you need help...and mean it!

8:38 AM  
Blogger Dream Mom said...

Well, I have to agree with you, I hate to be tailgaited too. I imagine that they are the way they are for all of the reasons you mentioned and I suspect that they could care less about tail gaiting someone because they have nothing at all to lose in the situation.

I don't have much patience on the road but I do commend you for at least thinking about their lives and I got a particular chuckle out of the line, "I suspect their parents didn't read much to them as children" or something to that effect. When I get to the point where I am really angry, the last thing I am thinking about is that their parents didn't read to them as children.

I think we all get to the point where we can get angry sometimes, and sometimes, it is for a good reason.

9:42 AM  
Blogger the granola said...

You know, this is something I struggle with a lot, the inherent unfairness of this world.

The scum bags were once the innocent children who needed to be saved. They commit crimes in good part because of the life void of human decency that they suffered. They do not understand the language of virtue.

I find that I am more likely to get angry at the whole system rather than the individual offending/harming me in those cases.

But if I feel like the individual is a person that had a good upbringing and should know better, I get really pissed. They got a good life and what are they doing with it now?

11:27 AM  
Blogger Flea said...

Oh ND, you didn't start it, did you?

I was a hot-headed kid once too (now I'm a hot-headed adult). I know what it's like to be flipped off by an adult. It's humiliating and infuriating.

I'm glad you're giving up the habit. You're better than that.



4:37 PM  
Anonymous anna said...

What cultural and socio-economic assumptions do you think they made about you when you flipped them off first? What kind of car were you driving?

6:33 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

we should all stop flipping the bird, including myself. I get so angry when I am driving and some one is going about 10mph in front of me in a 35 mph zone. You wern't doing that were you?

As the commenter above me stated, you had all those thoughts about them but I also wonder what they were thinking about you? Did they think that you thought you were better than them because your car was newer?

Either way we are adults and shouldn't do this. We may get shot!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Americans are obviously some of the worst drivers in the opposed to European drivers who are much more skilled and drive at much higher speeds without driving dangerously.
On the one hand you have idiots who will drive at 60 in the left most lane and wonder why they are being tailgated, and on the other, you have these maniacs who think they are in some sort of a videogame where they dangerously cut through lanes to speed forward.
When will these brainless retards understand that the left lane is only for passing, and that you are supposed to signal BEFORE and not after you start changing lanes.

10:56 PM  
Blogger NeoNurseChic said...

I have serious road rage. I admit it. I drive too fast because I leave too late. I'm one of those people who always wants it done yesterday. I know this is a terrible character flaw, but I'm stuck with it. For the majority of my life, I've grown up on the east coast around Philly. People in Philly are, for the most part, not full of brotherly love. They should ditch that motto.... Some days I get home from the city and feel like everybody was just plain mean.

But I have to get off this freaking road rage cycle. I've never flipped anyone the bird, but I don't drive pretty...nobody does around here. If you drive pretty, you don't get where you're going... I just need to stop allowing my blood pressure and heart rate to soar through the roof with my anger at other people on the road.

Afterall, it's really just anger at myself for leaving so late.

And yeah - about today's cherubs being tomorrow's comment. If I thought about them that way, I'd have quit my job a long time ago. But somebody's gotta try to save em, right?

Take care!
Carrie :)

12:53 AM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thank you, all, I see that road rage strikes a common chord with people.

It's an interesting thought, what did they think of me? The truth is, it was a brief encounter, and I don't much care what they thought of me, and I doubt they care what I think of them.

Dream mom, trust me, how much their parents read to them was not the first thing that went though my mind.

I think Flea's got it right though. I should be better than that.

3:42 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

P.S. I was driving about 10 mph over the speed limit when they tailgated me.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been tailgated - and "flipped off" - just as often by luxury cars as by clunkers. While I agree that in the hospital you see the tragic consequences of little education and low socioeconomic status, especially when drugs are involved, I think that on the road, aggression is an equal opportunity character flaw. After all, you seem to consider yourself to be of fairly high status, and yet you resorted to hand gestures to communicate your frustration. (I hope you don't have "MD" on your licence plate when making these gestures!)

When I'm being tailgated, I pull over and let the other car pass. If there's only one lane, I simply wait until I have the opportunity to let them go. I figure if it's so important to them to go fast, why should I stand in the way? And why should I let myself get worked up just because someone else can't control his emotions? (I'm not a slow driver, BTW. I usually go 5-10 over the limit, which is reasonable.)

Also, if I get angry and start retaliating, whether through the way I drive or by making gestures, then how am I any better? Nothing I say or do will retrain them to be less aggressive, but letting them pass peacefully teaches them a lesson in maturity and makes my drive more serene.

6:40 PM  

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