Road rage lessons for the little one

My son keeps me on the straight and narrow. Having a pair of six-year-old eyes on me forces me into good behavior. I pretend to love broccoli, dress appropriately for cold weather, avoid the more "colorful" of YouTube videos, and manage to avoid too much swearing. My language may not be that of a Disney Princess, but I think Shrek and I would at least have an understanding.

One of the few places I have a hard time being a good example for Silas is when I drive. Not that I'm a terrible driver. I've only hit a parked car once, after all, but I do occasionally end up terribly frustrated with other drivers. Not a true case of road rage, but I've got a little case of road peevishness. Also, don't start thinking that ding on your car is from me, when I hit someone's giant Buick in a parking lot I left a note!

There are two main driving habits which drive me to steering wheel-banging frustration no matter whose little eyes are watching me from the back seat. The first is people who drive under the speed limit. "Please!" I scream from the safety of my locked car, with all the windows up, "please drive faster! Not everyone is taking a driving tour of our scenic town!" I'm sorry, but if you feel like slowly touring a town while on a set of wheels, I've heard you can do tours of Jacksonville while on a Segway scooter. Those big white signs with black lettering are not mile markers, are you wondering why you always seem to be at mile 35?

The other thing that makes my blood boil on the road is people who don't use their turn signals. I realize it is a far more serious crime to impersonate a police officer, and that's the only thing that keeps me from pulling these people over and berating them myself at the side of the road. Turn signals keep you safer on the road, and it's part of being a courteous driver. "Oh, you're going to turn left? Thanks for telling me." There aren't a lot of ways that cars speak to one another. The horn is one way, turn signals are another. If I had my way there would also be a third thing that my car could say to your car, but I won't be explicit about that comment, that kind of language would even make Shrek blush.

I have a co-worker who tells me that she uses the term "My Friend" when driving with her child because she's avoiding another set of words that start with M. F. Now I don't want my son to learn every swear word in the book from me (I want him to look them up in a dictionary while in the third grade, just like I did), but I know that he is more shocked at the emotion behind my words when fury and peevishness strike on the roads, rather than what my actual words are.

I hope that my son, Silas, grows into the kind of man who likes to eat broccoli and wears long pants when it's cold outside. I hope I never have to remind him to "keep things appropriate" while watching YouTube, and that he'll grow up knowing how to do the occasional load of laundry. But even if I fail in all those life lessons, I know that I go to bed praying every night that he at least will use his turn signals.

Zoe Abel lives, and drives, in Ashland, Oregon. She has never hit your car and has never gotten a speeding ticket. You can contact her at

Share This Story