Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Three Levels of Road Retorts

Let’s say you cut someone off while driving. You’re a nice person and a good driver, but you cut someone off for some stupid, accidental reason. With everything in you, you wish that there existed some sort of message-relaying device on your rear window that flashed, “I’m sorry!” or “My bad!” or “I’m really late for work and I stupidly cut in front of you. I apologize.”

But you can’t. That would be distracting for the other drivers. It may become a cool fad for a while, but it would just end up outlawed…like gangsta tinted windows or blue headlights.

What you’re left with, I’m afraid, is a tremendous feeling of guilt for what you’ve done and no way to reconcile with the person behind you. You look into your rearview mirror to gauge their reaction to your sin. If this person is pissed, he or she will choose one of three reactions, all varying in intensity and emotion. I will list them in order of ferocity, from least to greatest.

1. The Bird

This one is standard. So standard, in fact, that it has lost all its zing and panache and ends up working against the person giving it.

The person who receives the bird will inevitably think, “Oh, this guy’s just a run-of-the-mill cynical curmudgeon. He didn’t deserve to be cut off, but he didn’t really deserve not to be cut off either.”

2. The Snarl

I’ve seen this one work rather effectively in a small number of situations. The point is to make sure that the person sees that you’re pissed. Or, perhaps, intimidate them.

[Also, according to the picture above, you must drive a car that looks like a gremlin.]

Now here’s the kicker: its effectiveness is in its presentation. Speeding up next to the person and making a nasty face is a far too attention-deprived demeanor. Bending your head out the window to catch the person’s eye may also make someone think that either you’re an a-hole or wish you were an a-hole. This decreases the validity of The Snarl.

3. The [Prolonged Sigh]

This is by far the most blistering reaction. The hurt that is being expressed is far more than you could even imagine. It makes you think, How could I have done that to this poor person? Who do I think I am? Why do I even drive? How could I be so cruel? The Road Retort that brought about these questions is this:

This person is legitimately hurt. Not angry, hurt. He probably just got unjustly fired from his job, dumped by his girlfriend because he was unjustly fired from his job, and was late for his grandma’s funeral. You see, he wasn’t very close to his parents and his grandma was the only parent-figure he had in the whole world, but once he started seeing his girlfriend he kind of let Grandma go to the wayside and she DIED without him being able to set things right, and now what does he have? Nothing, Brian. Nothing.  

As soon as possible I am going to invent Rear Window Message Machines.


  1. Aww. Poor #3 guy.

    #2 type of guy scares me. I'm always afraid that type will follow me and do mean things.

    #1 type of guy just ticks me off. There's no reason to use profanity at me just because I did something stupid! So there.