What was called Chicago’s “flood of the century” back in 1996 essentially just repeated itself last week, only 17 years later. Roads were closed, homes were partially under water and my downtown area was sandbagged to help protect buildings that hadn’t already been flooded. The morning after the major overnight torrent of rain storms, our school district informed us that school was in session. I managed to get my two oldest kids, normally walkers, to the school through back roads that had up to 4″ of standing water in spots. The main route was closed. My wife and I then drove our youngest, who normally walks to a bus stop, over a block farther away. His regular stop was under over 5 inches of water and quickly getting deeper as a nearby retention pond was overflowing.
On the way back, we took the other route around the deepest flooded section of our street near his bus stop. We stopped for a few minutes, as someone in our sub-division was attempting to clean one of the street drains that was under about 6 inches of standing water, as evidenced by the level on his boots. He finished the task, stood up and started to chat with another neighbor across the street. At that point, I very slowly proceeded down the street toward our house, so as not to splash or create significant waves. I didn’t know this man, so I started to roll down my window to say hello and thank him for clearing the drain.
At that moment, he broke off his conversation and erupted into a completely unprovoked outrage at me, before I even had a chance to speak. He was suddenly yelling at me in disbelief that I had to drive on this street (the same one the bus had just passed a few minutes earlier). I didn’t really know how to react, as the rest of our community is normally very friendly and neighborly. I managed a half-hearted apology before I rolled the window up and drove away. I avoided escalating the situation, not knowing if he was going to suddenly emo-rage and come after us with the garden implement he had used to clean the drain.
We dismissed it as someone who perhaps had to deal with a flooded basement or worse. Completely understandable. Still, what it is about being in or around a car that makes people behave completely differently than they might otherwise? Had we been walking home from the bus stop, I imagine the events would have been much different. I sure hope so, or I might have had a garden hoe lodged in my skull!
Cars sometimes seem to provide a type of security that allows a different, more aggressive person to emerge. It’s not unlike how some people act much differently in online communities than they do in person. Perhaps it’s just easiest to outlet rage at some stranger driving a car, whether you are a pedestrian or another driver. Anyone have a good road rage story to share?