masseratti_dick1255401582This is not my car. The guy standing next to it doesn’t own it, either. He just wanted his picture taken with a Maserati.

I’m related to someone who knows somebody who owns this car. If I did have a luxury sports car I think I might command more respect on the road. In fact I’m certain of it. I actually went for a ride in it one day. My brother dropped me off at my neighborhood car repair shop while he was borrowing this car for business. The mechanics stopped what they were doing to go gagga over it; then they were extra polite to me when I paid up and reclaimed my Honda. I think I had temporarily inherited the Maserati’s magnificent aura because they made more eye contact and smiled a lot.

Such is the power of a cool car.

Most of the time, my life on the road involves driving my 2005 silver Honda Civic around Atlanta and north Georgia to visit clients. I drive on city roads both narrow and wide as well as two, four and six-lane highways. I travel on highways that are under endless construction, on mountain roads that are curvy and paved and on long country roads that are mud and gravel. I am a healthcare social worker who does home visits with people who have illnesses in their family. When I get to the home of a client, I would prefer to be calm and clear-headed so that I can focus on the client’s needs rather than my own near-death experience. Too often, the latter is the case.

I don’t drive much higher than the speed limit because when I do speed I start sending out signals to the Universe: “I am breaking the law. Please send out a police officer to pull me over and give me a ticket!” Seriously. Why do some of my friends and colleagues speed consistently and not get stopped? They tell me that I must be bringing it on myself by feeling so awful about it. They actually claim that I am manifesting the officer and the ticket by focusing too much on getting caught. There is probably some truth to that.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use this twisted power on the people who ride my tail or suddenly pass me on the right before I know they are there — zipping by like rockets. It would be awesome if I could use my strange magnetism with law enforcement to call in a police officer to stop the guy who seems to want to attach the front end of his car to the back end of mine. Can he also be charged with sexual harassment because his car made a pass at me?

Another target of my “call in the police” power would be the driver who thinks that the space I was keeping between myself and the car in front of me  was being held specifically so that she could squeeze into it. Thanks a lot, lady, for eating up my safe distance. If I find a way to make myself feel guilty about your lack of road manners do you think a state trooper would instantly appear?

My least favorite drivers and the ones I won’t joke about are the mad weavers. They are the ones who wrecklessly flit from space to space, moving back and forth from one lane to the other as if the road were a giant moving game board and they are going for checkmate. It might be thrilling for them but I used to work in a pediatric emergency room. Whole families have been wiped out by drivers like that. I have seen children maimed and orphaned by these lunatics. I see them as weapons of destruction.

I don’t have much choice but to put up with all of them. Driving is a big part of my job now. Most people are considerate drivers and I have to remember that, even though I know that the bad one could ruin my day or my life in an instant. Here are some lessons I have learned while driving my car:

1.) Yes, I do quickly get into the right lane when I look in my rear view mirror and see a fast-coming car. I just want to be left alone to drive in peace. But if I’m in the right lane and someone wants to ride my tail, even though there is a lane or two on the left in which they can pass me, I take my foot off the gas and gradually drift to a slower speed. It always works and they go away. It’s one of my few passive aggressive moments and victory is always sweet. I never understand these drivers. It’s like they want to go fast but they don’t have the nerve to speed in the left lane where they are more likely to get caught. Sorry, dude. Pushing me with the front end of your car isn’t going to make the entire right lane adjust to your preferred speed!

2.) I have learned not to make mean gestures with my fingers because such behavior is ugly and it leaves me feeling ugly. So I try to confuse the menace sharing the road with me by giving him or her a thumbs up and a sweet smile.

3.) Crazed drivers beware. I have learned that when my adrenaline is flowing because I’m terrified I can remember license plate numbers and the company phone numbers printed on the sides of business trucks and vans. If you are driving in a company vehicle and you try to run me off the road, I will find the nearest place to pull over and report you. I am happy to say that business owners take this very seriously and they are always grateful for the call. Such behavior makes them look bad, too. And it puts them at high risk for lawsuits.

4.) I want to be a person who can quickly forgive and let go. Driving a lot helps me practice. I am certain that there have been times in my life when I was the person making some other driver feel bullied. It was usually because I had failed at time management that day and was running late. Or I was having a bad day and being in a car provided me with an anonymous way of acting out. To my “victims,” I am truly sorry.

5.) On the road, just like in life, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Driving defensively has saved my life time and again. When the cell phone rings I try to ignore it. If I drop something on the floor, it’s not worth my life. I move out of the way of dangerous people and recognize road rage as a tragic fact of modern life. I always, always, always adjust my speed for bad weather. If I’m on a winding road and the car behind me wants to go fast, I try to pull over somewhere safe to let that person move on down the road. I don’t need the tension. Neither does that client I’m about to see or the family member waiting for me at home.

6) Whenever possible, I show acts of kindness to truck drivers and fell0w travelers such as myself who are just trying to get by and do their jobs. When I do this, I always pray for a ripple effect of good will. Who knows? A kindness shown on the highway could even save a life.

###
Cathleen Hulbert

Cathleen Hulbert

Cathleen Hulbert, MSW, LCSW, is a free-lance journalist and clinical social worker who spent six years living in New York City where she earned her graduate degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and worked in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. During that time, unexpected teachers began to emerge who would set the stage for the writing of  the novel, “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about original innocence. For more information about the book go to www.cathleenhulbert.com. She later traveled to Hawaii to answer the call of Kalah and to embrace the healing power of Aloha. She returned with a renewed dedication to sea turtle conservation, a burning love for the Hawaiian culture and a deeper respect for the needs of Mother Earth. She now lives in Roswell, Georgia, where she works in the healthcare field and continues to write. In November 2008 Cathleen was a co-recipient of the National Hemophilia Foundation's "Distinction in Communication Award" for helping teens with chronic bleeding disorders create their own camp newspapers. Her current project is a sequel to "The First Lamp."