What is it about getting behind the wheel that brings out the worst in some people? I have to admit that I am known among my friends and children for having an extremely short fuse while driving. This is not helped by the fact that I am often driving around the suburbs of Madrid where the antics of some motorists have to be seen to be believed. I am notorious for using exaggerated and often obscene hand gestures to inform other drivers that they have just undertaken a highly dangerous or ill mannered manoeuvre. This can cause all sorts of problems when you live in a fairly small town and you are likely to bump into the offending driver at the supermarket or outside the school gates.
After just such an episode where an extremely rude gentleman stole the parking space that I had been patiently waiting for and I wound down the window and told him exactly what I thought of his driving manners as well as insulting the size of his brain and manhood, only to sit down opposite him a couple of days later in our dentist´s waiting room, I have realised that I need to tone down my reaction to bad driving etiquette. Therefore I have decided to do the opposite of what other drivers might expect and remain calm and smiling at all times. This is no mean feat when you are hooted at for NOT pulling out into oncoming traffic at a roundabout or have to slam on your brakes when another road user has cut across three lanes of traffic to make the motorway exit while still travelling at 120 kph. But now I am a picture of serenity (at least on the outside), I wave at the offending drivers with a big smile and the most I will do is blow them kisses when I have been hooted at for obeying the speed limit. Actually, blowing kisses seems to be more inflammatory than the worst hand gesture as I have noticed the recipients becoming apoplectic with rage on a couple of occasions.
My verbal insults have been toned down as well, and Teenage Son and Daughter seem faintly disappointed that I am not swearing viciously after each traffic incident. They still remind me of the time when they were small that I called a reckless female driver a stupid cow after she jumped the lights at our local intersection. For months afterwards the children would look for the dairy cow that they were sure lived at those traffic lights. Husband, on the other hand, still hoots and shouts at his fellow commuters on his way home, as everyone weaves in and out of lanes or tailgates. I can now smugly touch his arm and say ¨Let it go, it isn´t worth getting worked up about¨and wave in a stately manner at whoever has put all our lives in danger.
By smiling and reminding myself to breathe deeply while driving around, I am hopeful that my blood pressure will stop skyrocketing. It will also fit in nicely with my resolution to try and reduce stress in my life although frankly the best way to achieve that on the roads of Madrid is to buy a tank.