Monday, January 28, 2008

Road revenge

When another driver does something really dangerous and ill-mannered on the road, like cutting in millimetres in front of you or overtaking on a pedestrain crossing, do you spend the next half hour dreaming up methods of delivering comeuppance? I do.

My own preferred method would involve no road rage but simply getting out at the next red traffic light, calmly tapping on the window of the car and telling the culprit that I am the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter gifted will infallible predictive powers and that I am very sorry to have to inform him that I have just seen him die a horrible death. It's petty, I know, and needless to say I would never do it but just imagining the scene is catharsis enough.

Fictional characters are more foolhardy and I suspect that novelists sublimate their own revenge fantasies through their characters. Remember the Ann Tyler character who got her own back on a hapless old man who had committed some highway misdemeanour by later speeding past him and pointing wildly at his tyre just to cause him the inconvenience of stopping and investigating? The ploy backfired though, I can't remember exactly how, and the character ended up having to run the man home to his family.

A character in a short story by William Boyd that I read yesterday delivered the following line to a man who had stolen his newspaper, "Next time you have a piece of bad luck, think of me. Because I will be thinking of you." I quite liked that.


Ms Mac said...

I just read in another blog this morning how "every licensed driver should be issued a gun. Not a bang-bang-kill-you-in-a-drive-by gun, mind you. His idea called for a gun that would shoot a powerful magnet with a red flag attached to it. The plan being that any time you saw another driver doing something stupid and/or illegal, you'd shoot his car. If a cop saw any car with 3 or more red flags, he would pull the car over & write them a ticket." which I thought was rather a good idea.

I once saw an Aussie tv show called Blue Murder which was an excellent "mini-series loosely based on actual events" concerning Sydney's Criminal Underbelly in the 70s and 80s. Anyway, in that show, someone approached one of the criminals about his aggressive driving techniques, just to have a friendly chat, like, at the next set of lights. The criminal got out of the car and beat the other driver to death with a handy baseball bat he had stored in the car.

I always remember that when I come across an idiot driver and lock my doors when we get to traffic lights.

BeefKing said...

As a wronged pedestrian, I have in the past photographed the number plates of those who have offended me, just to make them somehow nervous.

Reminds me of Dostoyevski, Notes from the Underground. So full of nights awake planning retributive action for minor social wrongs, the thought process itself became so consuming that the underground man was paralyzed to actually follow through on his revenge fantasies. Later on, encountering his "enemy" quite by chance in the street, he intentionally and spontaneously bumped into him, and counted it as a major personal victory. By that time, of course, the offender neither remembered the underground man, or noticed that he had been avenged.

Lesley said...

Stella: Yes a gun wight come in handy, but in France the red flags would probably become trophies to be proud of.

BeefKing: Revenge plotting is efinitely a self-defeating exercise when taken to extremes - the perpetrator is, I suspect, almost always unaware of his (more rarely her) wrongdoing

spentrails said...

The notion of revenge terrifies me. I've never understood this but am gratified that I don't spend hours thinking up the perfect way to wreak revenge on the idiot who wronged me.

On the other hand, this frees up my time to think up countless ways to appear witty and superior by getting the last word in against some other idiot. This definitely isn't the same thing as revenge because getting the last word in is not a dish best served cold. Piping hot or nothing but as I'm a slow cook, I never quite get that right either.

deborah said...

The last time someone ill-bred and rude really shocked me I couldn't think of anything to say and spent days thinking back to what I could have said or should have said.

Got it out of my system by writing a long letter of outrage to a neighbour about the extent to which some people are 'malélévé' and he gave me such a nice reply that his niceness made me forget about the awful man.

So I agree about the need for some sort of catharsis. My brother in law once took his rage out on a stationary car (which seemed a good idea at the time) by giving it a tremendous kick ... unfortunately the owner saw him and bro in law didn't have the presence of mind to say This could have been YOU!

I think you should keep a rag doll in your car and stab it with pins or give it a thump the next time ... I used to do this to a doll which represented my children's maths teacher. It gave great satisfaction and I am glad to report she is still going strong.

Dick said...

Brilliant! I can't wait for my next white van cut-up.

Lesley said...

Spentrails: I do the thinking-of-the perfect-riposte-days-later thing too. I suspect everybody does, except insuffereable smart alecs that is.

Deborah:The doll or the teacher is still going strong?

Dick : How strange, I had just visited your blog when you left this comment. You've been silent for months. How are you?