I’ve often thought of myself as a pretty peaceful guy. I tend to steer clear of confrontation. I’m not aggressive. But tonight…I wanted to hurt someone.
Now, I haven’t always been this way. Actually, as a kid, I was known to get into my fair share of fights. Apparently, I had a pointy head and big ears and when my dad would shave my head…the amount of fights I would get into would increase accordingly. I remember being pulled into the principal’s office in 5th grade and having a very serious discussion about my anger issues. Let’s just say that even at that young age, she was able to make a lasting impression on me and my future options should I continue to let my anger get the best of me.
Within the course of a year, I was able to go from being that guy who punched people for almost no provocation to being everyone’s doormat because I wouldn’t stand up for myself, ever. Over the years, however, I’ve struck a nice balance. I still get angry from time to time, but I don’t feel the need to grab someone by the face and give them a walking tour of Knuckletown. I stand up for myself when needed, but the whole ‘Come at me, bro!’ attitude is gone.
Then…there was tonight.
We spent the day leisurely working our way through a lazy Saturday. We all slept in a little later than usual. We ate breakfast and then got ready to drive to Orlando to go to Disney for the day. Fastpasses planned, we headed out. After spending the day between two parks with fun, shenanigans, lots of pictures and even getting to finally meet a blogger friend of mine in person(!), we drove home. It was late, so we just stopped at Wendy’s and gnoshed some burgers on the road home.
The boys had long since fallen quiet in the backseat with only the occasional snore to break the silence. My wife and I were talking about grown-up stuff. We don’t tend to talk to one another a lot during the day because of work, kids, activities etc. So, the nighttime is our time to have grown up talk. I’d love to tell you what we were talking about but I don’t remember. In fact, most everything about the drive home is gone. I can’t remember it.
It’s been replaced by headlights. I had been following a couple of motorcycles for about twenty miles. They exited. And then it was open highway surfing. We cruised along until we started getting closer to Tampa where traffic began congesting. I was in the middle lane (because I like escape options when things get hairy). There was a car about ten feet in front of me in the left lane. The right lane was taken up by a line of cars all awaiting upcoming exits.
I looked in my rearview mirror as I do whenever I slow down, you know, just in case. See, as a guy, I tend to go through a hundred different scenarios of any given situation. I thought I was just weird and morbid for doing this, until I talked to several guys who all do the same thing. Turns out, guys just really want to be ready to handle whatever situations may come their way. Working through hypothetical situations helps guys not get caught off-guard if things go all pear shaped. Granted, most of us tend to find that every situation ends with us popping out the adamantium claws and going all Wolverine on things…but I digress.
No, I looked back into my rearview mirror and saw a pair of headlights coming up on me way too fast. Now, traffic wasn’t crawling. We were still going about 80mph at the time. This guy was flying up on my rear fast enough that I would have put him going closer to 120mph. I had nowhere to go. I drive a Honda Fit. Factory. I wasn’t going to be able to scoot out of his way in time. He got up close enough that his lights disappeared below my rear window, before he changed lanes.
Mind you, he hasn’t slowed down! I looked into the driver’s side mirror just in time to see him miss my bumper by less than a foot. Remember that car that was about ten feet in front of me in the left lane? Yeah.
So, the scenario I was anticipating was rapidly changing. First, I tried to figure out how to handle him rear-ending me at that speed. I had slid my foot over the brake pedal, but removed it because I don’t want to hit the brakes. Better to get rear-ended at speed and then slow down AFTER the impact than to slow down BEFORE the impact thus making the impact worse. But, he missed me. Yay! Oh yeah, that other car. Now, I was trying to figure out what course of action I should take when he plows into the rear end of this other car in the left lane. I couldn’t change lanes because I had a line of traffic in the slow lane and Butthole McGee over in the left lane.
For being in the lane with the most escape routes, I was feeling particularly pinned in. So, I held the wheel tight in my hands and braced for a possible impact while taking my foot off the gas. The impact never happened. The car slammed on his brakes fast enough to avoid a collision.
And all I could think about was my two sleeping sons in the backseat. Both of them sleeping with the quiet assuredness that comes with knowing that no matter what, dad will protect them. My wife. Oh God, my wife. The woman I swore to protect with my very life…was sitting there and there was nothing I could do. My mind raced and suddenly, I was struck with the notion that everything I had ever done, every hypothetical exercise that ran through my mind was, in that moment, complete and utter bullshit. A waste.
You see, I had some romantic notion that when things go south, people have enough time to call out to God and ask for forgiveness for all of their sins, and to tell those who really matter to them most that you love them…and time willing to tell them how much they really mean to you. All I had time to do was clench my fists and my ass and hope for the best. The entire thing played out in less than five seconds. By the time my wife realized there was any trouble, the trouble was gone.
She asked me what my “Oh shit.” was about. I told her about the idiot in the Mini Cooper. Then, as I sat there, the tears welled up in my eyes and the fear, the panic, the sheer terror of what might have been washed over me. I breathed deep, trying to process the massive amount of adrenaline in my system. To combat the panic, I breathed. Deep and slow. Deep and slow. Deeep aaaand…slllloooooowwww….with the occasional sob sneaking out. My wife asked me several times if I was okay.
I told her that I don’t think that I’ve ever been so scared in my entire life. (Not going to lie here. If there was ever a time that I thought I might have a heart attack…this was it.) That was the easy answer. True but easy. She asked again. I dug a little deeper. I was scared because in that split second, I realized that I had very little, if any, control over the situation. At that moment, the safety of my family was in someone else’s hands. Their safety was in the hands of someone who thought driving 120mph in traffic at night was a good idea. The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me. I finally took a deep breath and said, “I want to hurt him. I want to hurt that guy so bad. I have never wanted to hurt someone more than I want to hurt him right now.”
But it was more than that. You see, I didn’t want to just beat his ass and show him what a big man I was. I wasn’t interested in asserting dominance over him. No. I wanted to yank his little ass out of his Mini Cooper by the hair. I wanted to smash his face into the window of my car so he could see my two sleeping sons. I wanted to yell at him that he doesn’t matter. I wanted to scream at him that his life doesn’t matter. I wanted to scream that MY life doesn’t matter. But then, to point out across the roadway at everyone driving by and say that WE matter. WE, the collective matter more than ME. the singular. I wanted to beat him bloody to make sure he knew the stakes of messing with other people’s families.
Instead, I took several more deep breaths. I reveled in the fact that my family wasn’t hurt. I was happy that the people in the car in the left lane weren’t hurt. I was able to look into the backseat and be glad in the fact that my family was safe, regardless of who was in control. We got home and put the kids to bed. I said my goodnights to everyone and had a beer. It still bothers me. How, I had very little say in how everything played out. How, I could lose my family in a hearbeat and not have a say in the matter. How, I seriously, wanted to beat another human being into little more than a bloody puddle…
I’ve still got a lot on my mind. But my family is home, safe. And THAT’S really the only thing that matters.