On road rage and being out of control

The other day, my mom told me that I like to be in control of conversations, that I like to be the one steering them.

“No, I don’t!”

Well, maybe I do. I tried to refute her point by saying I’m perfectly comfortable in letting the conversation go wherever it wants, but I’m actually not. That’s what I rehearse answering interview questions while I’m alone in my car. And why I skirt questions I don’t want to answer and get anxious when there’s silence because WHO KNOWS WHAT THAT OTHER PERSON WHO IS SO UNPREDICTABLE AND WHOLLY A PERSON WILL SAY NEXT?

There’s some anxiety wrapped up in it and this idea that I’m capable of controlling things. Some of the things I’d like to control but can’t:

  • the unexpected
  • the price of an avocado
  • the timing of getting sick
  • whether or not other people like you
  • whether or not people email you back
  • other people in general
  • my cravings for pizza
  • the weather
  • traffic

Can I get an amen for the last one? I know my sister would do it if she was here right now. I’m a perfectly calm person, happy driver, right up until the point that someone merges without using their blinker. Then I, the ever perfect blinker user, do a 180 and yell something that they’ll never hear.


It’s become a point of concern for me in the past few months, that this sudden change can happen, all this rage bursting forth from me over quite trivial things. I wonder if I’m actually a really angry person and don’t have any other outlets.

That’s probably not it. It might have something to do with my impatience and desire to keep moving on the road.

I was stuck at a traffic light on Hennepin Ave, right where Hennepin and Lyndale meet in Minneapolis, heading north to 94. It was a Saturday midday, and there were so many cars, it took at least four light cycles to get me through the light. I’ve been trying to be patient in circumstances like this since my friend shared David Foster Wallace’s talk from Kenyon College, “This Is Water” with me, so I was in a pretty good state of mind.

Still, four light cycles. It might have been more. I lost count. I was trying to sing along with the music and keep calm. I will not get through this light faster if I’m irritated. 

That area is always pretty busy, sometimes rather congested, and there’s a lot of merging around since it’s close to multiple major thoroughfares, and people don’t always know where they’re going or how to get there or what lane they needed to be in like, two blocks ago so they could take that on-ramp. And it didn’t help that Hennepin’s right side is under construction. We joke that summer is construction season, but helloooo, it’s snowy, and it’s still here. It’s the ever-present, unwelcome guest.

I was taking deep breaths, and when I finally got to point where I knew I’d get to go through the next time the light turned green, I saw that the sign in front of the church there said something to the effect of, “We’re all under construction.”

I wonder how many days that’s saved. How many people have been brought back from the edge of irritation with a simple thought. I wonder how many people have just nodded to themselves like I did, thinking, touché, Church Sign, touché. 

It was another reminder about not being in control. Not in control of the traffic, not in control of the construction, not in control of how other people are under construction, not in control of how I’m under construction. It was a reminder that the unexpected and irritating is coming, and I need the grace to just walk through it.

Or drive through it. My turn finally came, and I got to the light, but I’ve thought about that sign a few times since I drove past it.

Anything that helps with road rage is worth remembering.


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