Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:58

What Neil Degrasse Tyson taught me about road rage

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St. Louis drivers are awful. I am one of them. Agressive, impatient, rude and on the phone. Yep, that's me. I need to be where I want to be now, so please get the f*ck out of my way. 

To my credit (and luck) I have never been in a major collission while driving. I am much better at hitting things that are parked or stationary. I did slide on the ice once on Kingshighway in the 80's in my shitty Nissan Sentra and rear-ended some lady. A few summers ago my trusty Honda Civic was itself rear-ended when the driver behind me bent over to pick up his lit cigar from the floor of the passenger side of his car. Other than that, nobody was harmed or killed by me due to my questionable driving skills.

I had an epiphany recently that has caused me to work very hard each and every day to literally slow my roll. Part of it was surviving cancer, which made me realize that I did in fact not want to die. The main reason though was the unintentional advice I received from Neil Degrasse Tyson and "Cosmos."

My car is just shy of fifteen feet long. For sake of arguement, let's say the asshole driver on his damn phone is driving an SUV that is eighteen feet long. Each car wants to be in the same lane at the same time. Each driver is of course more important than the other. Each car tries to out race or out maneuver the other into submission to earn their deserved place in line. Neither however will get to their destination any faster. It's about perspective.

I have a fan of space science since I was a kid wondering how the astronauts were doing on the moon. Our universe is a really, really big place. In the whole scheme of things those two cars totaling about thirty-three feet who both want twenty feet of road at the same time are ridiculously small in comparison. Life here on this funny rock is WAY too short to risk losing it by shitty driving. The extra time it takes to drive just a little better and be a little more courteous is also miniscule compared to the vastness of space and time. Hey, maybe leave a little earlier and put the iPhone down.

When he was a teenager, my beloved partner was in a tragic car accident that ended in the death of his closest friend at the time. He still doesn't drive to this day and my driving has always made him a bit nervous. Now that I have him and dogs and nieces and nephews and people who depend on me in my life, I think I can put on a seat belt and be a safer driver. Better for everyone and certainly better for my blood pressure.

Genetics are strong and St. Louis drivers are what they are. Like loving Imo's pizza, it's just part of who we are. I conciously strive to do better and be more vigilant, but dear lord it is difficult. Part of me still wants a loud megaphone and paint ball gun installed like Speed Racer weapons on the hood of my car to warn other cars when they are doing bad things. Like that old lady in the minivan who was going too slow on highway 40 yesterday. I had places to be and she was in my way. And on the phone.