What is wrong with Americans? Why are we always so mad at each other? How did we get to be so angry? Why can't we just get along?
You can wade into the political swamp and conduct research, but if you are fortunate enough to have a job and a car, you know the answer. All the evils of America are on display during a single commute, where people in vehicles feel the freedom and the power to be the worst people they can be. Most of the ill will is generated from selfishness, a sense of entitlement and a complete lack of empathy for any other person.
It didn't always used to be that way.
In the old days, if you got into the left-turn-only lane and then realized that you really wanted to go straight, you simply turned left when the arrow turned green and then you went a block out of your way and made the turns required to get back on course. The driver in front of me takes a different approach.
She sits in the turn lane, preventing me and the 17 other drivers behind us from turning left on the green arrow. When people start honking (0.3 seconds after the light turns green), she puts on her right-turn signal as a way of explaining her predicament, which is that she'd rather make 18 strangers wait another three minutes for the next green arrow than let her poor planning cost her a few precious seconds of driving slightly out of her way.
I calm myself by imagining that she's carrying a freshly harvested heart and those 13 seconds she saved will save the life of a desperately ill child.
In right-turn lanes, drivers who once were burned by a red-light ticket will never turn right on a red light again, no matter how open the path or how many people honk. Just because a right turn is allowed, that doesn't mean a guy doesn't have the right to anchor his car in that spot for 90 seconds with his signal blinking. We should be happy that someone is using a turn signal. At the very least, it gives him time to play a little "Cat Quest" on his cellphone.
Cellphones, of course, are unsafe at any speed. We've gotten accustomed to delivering a polite "beep beep" at every intersection as the traffic signal turns green to jar a driver ahead of us from his cellphone stupor. But we've also seen drivers cross the line into our lane on the expressway while buzzing along at 70 mph. A honk generally moves the guilty driver's eyes from the screen to the road for a second, or just long enough to save some lives.
When a sign says, "Do Not Block Intersection," I stop before the perpendicular street to allow people to make left turns in front of me. But the driver in the pickup truck behind me honks because he fears that my adherence to the sign will empower those inferior to him.
When stormy weather knocks out the traffic signals at a four-way stop complicated by left-turn lanes, it's as if commuters break into a live performance of "Lord of the Flies." Two, three, maybe four vehicles zip through the intersection at a time, pausing for cars crossing their path only when forced by a driver who is being bullied by the cars behind her.
Taking turns is a concept we all should have learned from our parents, or at least by kindergarten, but some people insist on taking advantage whenever they get an opportunity. According to traffic engineers, when the two lanes merge because one lane is eliminated, cars should alternate at the point of the merge, like teeth on a zipper. Instead, we get drivers who see yielding as weakness. Others, looking to feast on weakness, will pull into the lane about to close, drive 15 feet and attempt to cut back in front of the car that had been ahead of them.
These are the same people who, when you pull over and stop for a speeding ambulance, treat the moment as a restart of a NASCAR race, hoping to zip ahead of you and draft off the ambulance.
What makes things even worse is when you discover that the inconsiderate idiot driver who infuriated you is sporting a bumper sticker espousing your political views.