Friday, November 8, 2013

Crisis Management & Road Rage

Everyone thinks they are an excellent driver. Everyone has that in common with Rain Man.
Everyone can't be an excellent driver.
Everyone can't be as good an actor as Hoffman, either.

Tonight, I drove out for a quick errand to grab some Diet Coke.

I waited in line, paid for the 2-liter of deliciousness, and exited the gas station.

It should've been a routine trip.

It would have been...
Except for the fact that
people are CRAZY.

Tennessee drivers probably aren't worse than other drivers, as a general rule.
However, they are a little overzealous with the horn-honking.
This isn't New York, after all.

As I've said in my recent posts, I've been stressed lately.

Maybe that contributed to the events that occurred while I went on my little Diet Coke venture tonight.

My stress- and the inevitable fact that people in Nashville suck at driving...
(This generalization, of course, does not apply to me.)

I walk out of the gas station with my double-bagged Diet...
I'm thinking about how glad I am that the line wasn't long this time.
La deee dee dooooo, dip-e-dee-da... happy thoughts dancing in little Regina's head as she strolls to her parked car outside the station.

Then, while backing out... I hear a car horn.
Pretty typical, living in the city... except-
the sound of this horn is too close to be ignored.

AND... the duration of the horn's blaring alarm signaled that I, Regina Hodge, had prompted its triggering.

Surely not.

I whip around to see who the hell thinks that this type of horn-honking behavior is acceptable in Tennessee and especially- at a GAS STATION.


It's a Jeep.

It's parked at the gas pump-

Must've been someone else, thinks I...

Sure was a close-sounding honk, though.
That's weird.

Plenty of room to finish backing out. Wonder who the jerk is who sounded that horn? Wonder who made that Jeep's driver so mad... ' Least it's not me...

I cautiously, slowly continue to back up my car.


That's it.
I've HAD IT.
This is ridiculous.
Who in their right mind honks when somebody is backing out at a completely un-close distance from even coming remotely near to putting other drivers in danger, anyway...

Yeah, I said something like that.

I'll admit it. I'll confess.
I called the person who was parked at the pump an asshole.
I'm not proud of it.
I'm not surprised I said it, though, and-
if reliving the same scenario again,
I'd call them the same asshole.


After the first long horn honk, I made sure that there was no justified reason why I would've been the target of such aggression. After the second long honk that seriously caused my ears some discomfort,

I did something I've NEVER done before.

I got out of the car to directly address the other driver.


I didn't just jump out of the car to start a fight, though.
I honestly felt confused about why this unknown driver had been honking so needlessly and persistently at me- Especially when we were both parked and I was going under 1 mph. to back up my vehicle.

Out of the car now.
Who IS this PERSON?

I don't know who I expected to be behind the wheel of that Jeep.
I guess I thought the driver would look more like a jerk than a
normal, middle-class and middle-aged woman.

I still don't know why this surprised me. She looked so...NORMAL.

"I see you, Ma'am."

That's what I said first to the honker.
She'd already rolled the window down.

"Well, I didn't know you saw me!"

"I figured since you honked so much."

"You didn't have to get out of the car!"

"I got out to see what was going on, Ma'am. You scared me, honestly. I didn't know what was wrong because you kept honking like that."

The woman presents a confident and justified disposition that designates me an evil adversary.
I see it in her mean little beady eyes.

She's MAD AT ME.
This is crazy.

Whatever this woman experienced today must have been rough.
That's my work-self analyzing, there.

My personal self says she's still an asshole.

But, I know better.

Anyway, the woman SCREAMS at me so loudly that people hear from inside the gas station and come out to see if I'd hit the lady, I guess.

I didn't.
I did something better.
I made her feel stupid and ashamed of her actions.

Why is that better?

First- she isn't physically hurt. I haven't hit someone in quite a long time.
Second- She knows she was wrong, even though she'll never admit it.
Third- I had to rely on my ability to diffuse a situation that could've gotten really inconvenient and/or ugly.
Fourth- I have crisis management skills. I used them. They worked.

I stand there, being screamed at my a person whose vision probably hasn't been checked...ever.
A small crowd begins to gather right outside the station doors.
I must not call this lady any bad names.
She is wrong.
She will not apologize.
I must not take this personally.

Accepting a person's behavior- no matter how unreasonable or insulting it is-
IS THE FIRST STEP to stabilizing a crisis situation.

Over the past two years, I have endured insults that were not justified.
I hated it.
It helped me tonight.

Because of my experiences in working with people in crisis situations, this little gas station disagreement brought out the social worker in me.

Because I've seen SO MUCH WORSE and EXPERIENCED FAR MORE ANGERING ACTIONS than a middle-aged woman who honks too much.

While she yells at me, I analyze her body language.
It's aggressive. Her abrupt motions and hand gestures are confrontational.
Her words translate in English as being kind...
In tone and body language- they give conflicting meaning.

I've sized her up.
I know exactly what to do.
Watch the eyes.
I watch them.

Narrowed, brows furrowed, hands clenched upon the steering wheel, voice shaking.
This is what I see.
This is what I know...

1. Lady feels threatened by my getting out of my car after her repeated honking.
2. Lady misdirects anger, unrelated to present situations and likely due to more personal life matters than my actions.
3. Lady doesn't like being center of attention.
4. Lady becomes more aggressive when she becomes center of attention.
5. Lady feels need to save face in the presence of others.
6. Lady must be shown respect if situation is to be mitigated.

My brain thinks in this way now.
Social work promotes an entirely different way of thinking and working with people.
I didn't realize all I'd learned until these types of weird or challenging situations arise in my personal life.

I focus on my body language.
I relax my shoulders.
I slowly open my body up, by positioning my arms in an extended way that reaches out to the woman who is still screaming at me...
I watch her eyes become less narrowed when I do this.
I do it more.
Palms up and hands extended.
Explain reason for getting out of car to woman.
Must use respectful addressing terms such as Ma'am.
Use excessively, if needed.
Woman's shoulders and hands relax within her vehicle.

Ma'am... this really doesn't need to go any further than this.
I got out of the car to let you know I saw you.
It scared me because you were honking a lot
so I wanted to check on you
and make sure everything is okay.
I hope that you have a good evening, Ma'am.

Her response?

"Thanks. I hope you do, too."

Crisis managed.
Asshole vs. Badass
at Mapco
where Road Rage happens when PARKED.

Good thing I was a social worker. :)

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