Dec 12, 2008

On Troy Neff, Road Rage, and Common Sense

Left: Troy Neff and his war wounds (copyright Toledo Blade/Lori King)

I admittedly do not know radio host and financial planner Troy Neff very well, and my interactions with him have largely been limited to electronic communication. Even still, I was surprised to see that he became involved in a road rage incident in which he scuffled with another motorist before being stabbed, as Neff always struck me as pretty level-headed.

Luckily, Neff's injuries were not life-threatening, and it appears that he will make a full recovery.

Yet I do know the anger that can rise when confronted with a traffic incident that spirals out of control. While I am not sure that my own behavior could be defined as "road rage," it certainly had the potential to escalate into the dangerous territory into which Neff found himself Wednesday night.

These days I prefer the sarcastic approach when I am incensed about the brainless actions of another motorist. This usually takes the form of pulling up next to the offending motorist and clapping my hands in an exaggerated mock praise, or pantomiming the motions of a drunk taking a long pull from a whiskey bottle, suggesting that the other driver is an inebriated fool, blasted out of his head. While still provocative, I find that this lets me burn off some anger without blatantly instigating a physical confrontation.

I know, I know: I should just let idiot drivers careen down the road, but occasionally these motorized cretins need to know that they are a menace, or so say the voices of righteous indignation in my head.

A few years ago some idiot cut me off, and as I pulled up at the light, I provided said imbecile a one-fingered assessment of his driving. Instead of the usual exchange of middle fingers or shouted insults, though, this incident took a different, more menacing path.

The other driver screeched into reverse and pulled up right behind me, gesturing wildly and proceeding to tailgate me for about two miles. Rather than driving to my house - thus providing the jackass with my home address for possible further idiocy - I drove into a different subdivision. I should also mention that one of my teenagers was in the car, and that neither of us had a cell phone to call the cops.

I soon tired of driving through someone else's neighborhood with a raging loon on my bumper, and I became convinced that the stalking motorist would not give up. I parked my car, told my son to sit tight, and walked out toward the other vehicle, preparing myself for what looked like would be a fistfight.

Now, while I prefer to settle differences peacefully, I have thrown a few punches in my day (and received even more). Moreover, I am 6'5" and 230 pounds, and I have a decided size advantage in physical altercations.

Fortunately, my gorilla-like bulk and my testosterone-fueled salutation - "Bring it on, you punk-ass motherf**ker" - were enough to convince my would-be assailant that this was not a fight he wanted, and he drove off with a few choice face-saving profanities.

No harm, no foul, game over, right?

But what if Joe Badass decided this was the moment to reach under his seat and pull out his .22, and decided to put a bullet in my skull? Or what if Billy RoadRage found me to be the perfect target for his silver Taurus, and he decided to run my foolish self over?

So to Troy Neff and other angry motorists (including me): try to remind yourself that even the most prodigiously imbecilic knuckle-draggers are simply not worth your rage, no matter how serious the violation of safety standards or common sense. Just let this nonsense go before it gives you ulcers, or before you become a crime statistic.

And never, ever play vehicular vigilante with a kid in the car. Not only are you setting a flawed example for your children, but you just might find yourself on the receiving end of an unexpected bullet. These are not the 1960s or 1970s, when most fights remained limited to a half-dozen punches and someone winding up with a bloody nose and getting tossed into a mud puddle. There are borderline psychopaths packing serious firepower on American roads today, just itching for a reason to bust the proverbial cap in the ass of the next fool willing to take them on.

I shudder to think of how close I might have come to getting flatlined that sunny afternoon right in front of my kid. He recently recalled the event in front of some friends, describing my actions with that reverential awe young men have for times when their dads stood up. I had to cut him off and set him straight, letting him know that it was me who was the idiot that day, since I let my pride get in the way of clear thinking.

He looked a little puzzled that I did not jump in and help commemorate my "manliness," like I would if he was bragging to his friends about his dad scoring a winning touchdown or saving a baby from a burning building (both hypothetical examples, by the way).

I only hope that some day my son understands why I am not proud of my Dirty Harry moments, and that real bravery has little to do with chest-pounding and macho strutting.


Anonymous said...

Troy Neff has roid rage, not road rage. Why are you even writing about this egotisical jerkof?????

Skip said...

Well put, Michael! Well said!!

Mad Jack said...

Presumably both combatants are right handed. Judging from the wounds, Troy was holding the hillbilly with one hand and pounding the moonshine out of him with the other while Bubba raked his knife across Troy's arm to make him let go.

I remember once in Florida where a driver ran me off the road causing me to lose whatever tenuous grasp I had on my temper. We hit the next red light together and just as quick as I could ask this man why he tried to kill me back there, he was apologizing profusely. He hadn't seen me and was genuinely sorry. My anger vanished faster than an unguarded sawbuck in a North End bar. I felt foolish. I reassured the other driver that there was no harm and no foul. Since then I've managed to keep a lid on temper much more often than not, even when that dumb lady hit me and knocked me off my bicycle last summer.

Although I don't know Troy I like his show. He's pretty even handed and tends not to shy away from difficult questions on his interviews. I'm glad he isn't seriously injured.

Getting out of your car to confront another driver is foolish. If you're really upset with another driver's behavior, get the license number and a description of the car and call 911. I know in Sylvania Township you'll get a response from the police.

microdot said...

I'm awed and slightly terrified at the personality shift my wife assumes behind the wheel. Everybody else sees the sweet and gentle persona she dupes the fools who cross her path on foot, but I...I know the dark side.
Cursing like a drunken sailor on crystal meth as I grip the dashboard white knuckled stuttering...
"Are sure you don't want me to drive...dear?"

Anonymous said...

Mad Jack...gun-toting though he may be...actually provides a rational perspective. Mikey, getting out of your vehicle (despite your obvious excessive bulk) is more than foolish; you placed not only yourself and the other moron in jeopardy, but also endangered your defenseless child who could have been seriously injured, kidnapped, or killed in such a confrontation.

mud_rake said...

Ah, yes, road rage- an adolescent trait that I shed when I grew into a fully-functioning adult male.

Susan N. said...

Michael, although I don't know you either, I appreciate a fair and honest assessment of the unfortunate event that took place several weeks back.

While I think both men acted absurdly, most "posters" only want to point fingers of blame, make fun of the two or just be flat out mean. I'm so glad that these individuals have such sparkling clean records of perfect behavior in every situation that has ever faced them, almost "saints" in their own rights, I'm sure... What most of these "posters" don't seem to comprehend is that these two men will "pay their dues" for their own bad behavior not only in a court of law but in the public spotlight and in private with their families as well, as they certainly should. But there are those extremely unkind, "saintly" individuals out there who just can't seem to get ENOUGH PLEASURE out of these two men's pain. They feel that they have the right, for whatever reason, to continue to bash and bash and bash, not knowing or realizing that these men may have wives, children, brothers and sisters, parents and other relatives who are also being hurt by their vicious, unkind behavior and comments. We have suffered enough with this incident that we did not ask for, especially during the holidays. Please, if you are SO MUCH BETTER, so much more "SAINTLY"" than these two men, just shut up once and for all, go away quietly and "gloat" about that now, more than just these two men's lives have been forever altered and potentially ruined.

Thank you Michael for being honest enough with yourself and with your readers to admit that we all at some point or another in our own lives do things that we later regret. While for some, it's a more extreme lesson than for others, it's a part of being human... Hopefully both of these men and any others who have also made these kinds of mistakes can someday become better people as a result.

Anonymous said...

Troy Neff is no saint.
Thief, bully, drunk and abuser? yes.
Saint? No