DEAR CHARLOTTE: So an interesting thing happened recently and I can’t stop thinking about it…
I was waiting behind another car who was paying to exit the parking lot. The parking lot driveway lets out onto a cul-de-sac, from which other driveways connect to other parking areas.
As I was waiting, I noticed two cars in the cul-de-sac in front of us. After slowing down the front car stopped and decided to reverse, causing the second car to honk.
But then the driver paying in front of me leans out and flips me off! He finished and drove out of the parking lot only to do a U-turn to re-enter and he flips me off again!?
I keep replaying the incident in my head… He flipped me off twice and I didn’t even do anything wrong. What should I have done?! – DUMBFOUNDED DRIVER
DEAR DUMBFOUNDED DRIVER: Boy, isn’t life funny? You were just sitting there minding your own business and all of a sudden you’re the biggest s*#t in that driver’s mind… twice. So rude! Well, don’t feel bad for yourself – feel bad for the other driver.
There are several reasons why:
All driveway pay machines are designed to maximize frustration. They’re always at the wrong height, and require the precision of a surgeon driving to get close enough to reach while minding the sideview mirror.
The paying front driver must have been struggling with this modern torture device and growing uncomfortable with the reality that he might be a loser. So, he told himself that you honked. Rather than aim his frustration at the pay machine, he let it out onto you…twice.
Overcoming insecurity can be achieved through several methods, including therapy and journaling. But all of these methods would’ve have further delayed him paying and letting everyone move on with their lives. The good news is there is a path forward available to him and he can always valet in the meantime.
Driving can be a very stressful and often dangerous activity. Honking is often used a method to alerting other drivers of a potentially unsafe situation – that along with flashing headlights and cursing. Based on your description, I’ve made the unfounded conclusion that the front driver is a bad driver. And bad drivers are flustered drivers who often get honked at, headlights flashed at, and cursed at.
While there are many responses ranging from shock to confusion to fear (source), the honking set off in him an anger response from the trauma he likely experienced with past accidents and daily taunts of him needing to get out of the way and answering what he was doing.
But there is hope. With trauma, there are ways to recovery, including exercising, spending time with supportive friends where driving is not required, and seeking professional help if necessary (source).
Sometimes, people are a$$holes. There is a whole field study and practice called psychotherapy to help people figure out how to be less of an a$$hole, but not everyone has the self-awareness, motivation, or capacity to change. He flipped you off twice because he just might be an a$$hole and decided to respond in his normal way.
But there are several ways he can manage his a$$holery (source). He can find healthy ways to express his feelings, such as raising his fist to his chest and scowling. He can also practice gratitude by holding a pen and thinking, “Thank you! Pen!” He can also increase self-awareness by contemplatively smelling his fist. [Editor’s note: Please visit the source material if you haven’t already done so. This part is more funny if you do.]
In conclusion, I know that he flipped you off twice and in that moment, the shock of what happened stifled your response. But while in his mind the middle finger was appropriate for you, in your mind, you should think, “‘No, sir, F*@% you.’”
“‘F*@% that part of your brain that told you that you were doing something wrong at the parking machine. You had no reason to be embarrassed and the driver behind you was not thinking about you at all. While she did laugh when she figured what you might’ve been thinking, it was in part because she has embarrassing misunderstandings too. And everyone makes mistakes. And she was sorry that that part of your brain made you feel bad.’”
“So whether it’s from insecurity, trauma, or a$$homery, be gentle with yourself, dear mistaken driver – you’re doing the best you can… Good luck to us all.”
Dear Charlotte is written by Woman at Tastes Like Onion. Write “Dear Charlotte” at firstname.lastname@example.org.