Broken People

Yesterday, I had an experience that most of us have had once or twice. I was confronted by an angry, aggressive person who thought he could push me around by yelling and attempting to dominate me. In the past, when this has happened, it has made me angry, too. Yesterday was different. I didn't feel any anger at all. I felt sorry for him.

I was driving home from work. As I stopped at a stoplight, a large SUV from an adjacent parking lot pulled out into the road and attempted to cross four lanes of traffic into the left-most turning lane. The driver made it across two of the lanes before coming to a point where he had to stop, because the front of his car was aimed directly at the side of my car, just off the passenger-side rear bumper. This left the SUV blocking at least two lanes of traffic. There were two cars in front of me, so I wasn't exactly going anywhere myself, and I was in the correct lane for the left-hand turn I had to make.

Ordinarily, in a situation like this, I might pull forward a bit to see if the truck can get around me if I'm a little further forward. I started to make this move when the driver of the SUV suddenly started honking, repeatedly, and yelling profanity at me.

One of my character flaws is my sensitivity to bullying. I don't like it, and I tend to resist it whenever I see it. This man had made an aggressive move in the middle of a busy traffic signal and wanted people to simply move out of his way, just because. I would do it to be polite, but I won't do it just because some aggressive bully demands that I do it.

But, all of these thoughts merely passed through my mind in a moment or two. The driver had scarcely been honking at me for 20 seconds before he decided to hop out of his car, run up to my window, pound on it, and demand that I move. He told me to "stop being a dick," screamed that he was trying to get into the far left lane, bellowed out a few F-words, and then ran back to his truck.

Throughout all of this, I merely looked at him. I looked him in the eye, but my facial expression was calm and neutral. I did not roll down my window. I did not engage in conversation with him. I simply looked at him, as flatly as I could, considering that his aggressive confrontation was a little startling.

When he got back to his truck, there was some more honking and some more yelling, and then after a few more seconds -- again, we are talking about matters of seconds here, not minutes -- he managed to drive around my car and pull up beside me in his SUV.

N.B.: he drove his SUV around me. That means he never had to honk, scream, swear, or get out of his truck in the first place. He could have simply begun by driving around me and going on his way. He chose to honk, scream, and aggressively confront me.

Now that his SUV was beside my car, he had a clear path to continue on in the leftmost lane. Instead, he rolled down his window and continued his verbal onslaught. Once again, I retained a neutral facial expression, but this time, I picked up my cell phone and began snapping photos. When he realized what I was doing, he quickly shut his mouth and sped away, and that settled that.

When I got home, I took a look at the photos I had taken. One of them clearly caught the man's face as he was screaming and swearing at me. I zoomed in on it. The anger was obvious, but there was something so incredibly sad about it. His dark eyes seemed to lack something. My thoughts ran through the events a few times, and the key points played themselves out again and again.

The man pulled out of a parking lot at a busy intersection as approaching cars were lining up to stop at the stoplight, and yet to him it was obvious that his goal of crossing all of these lanes despite all that other traffic should take precedence. Other people should move out of his way. He's trying to go somewhere.

He stops for a car that is obviously stopped, waiting for the red light to turn green, and then rather than giving the car the chance to move out of his way, proceeds to honk, scream, yell, and so forth; and all this, despite the fact that he had enough room to simply drive around.

He takes the time to try a physical confrontation, despite the fact that he is walking on the street on foot at a busy intersection during rush hour. He continues his verbal assault.

He then drives around, and when his path is unobstructed, he chooses to waste additional time yelling at someone who has not responded to anything he has said or done thus far.

There is something broken in a person like that. I am not quite sure what it is, but it's obvious that it is broken. Is it that the sense of his own objectives prevents him from being able to put himself in someone else's shoes? Is it that he has never considered how his actions impact other people? Is he suffering from uncontrollable rage?

I don't know. But the extent of his brokenness awakened in me not anger, not defensiveness, not resentment, but sadness and pity. No one should ever be so damaged. I hope he will be okay. I hope he gets help.

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