Blog: Love Made Me Do Something Crazy
(originally written 9/22/10)
I’d like to let it be known UPFRONT—I was not in a good mood on Saturday afternoon. A trying day at work, a crappy softball game, a poor night’s sleep, a fussy baby, a fussy baby mama, and an inability to get a girl who barely even knows I exist out of my mind—shake all that up, bake for about 15 hours, and what do you have?
A temperamental beast known as Skillzilla. AKA “Pretty Mad Skillz” or “PMS”.
A walking powderkeg of fury with a fuse no longer than a cherry’s stem, like lightning, Skillzilla’s always on the hunt for a conductor through which to unleash pent-up energy.
Translation: tick me off in the slightest when I’m PMSing, and I could go apeshit on you.
The scene: McCarthy Blvd. at Ranch Drive in Milpitas. Me, baby Josie and baby's mom were en route to the Wal-Mart located in the “Ranch Mall”. At this point we were less than two minutes away from savings galore on formula, bath tissue, Pepsi and so much more.
I’m driving, Josie is shotgun rear, and her mom is next to her. We were going north on McCarthy, toward the back entrance to the plaza. I’m doing 35 in a 35 and going through a bright green light through Ranch Drive in the right lane. I’m also tense and crabby, as mentioned above.
A beige-ish Toyota Corolla, early '00’s model, waited on Ranch to turn right onto McCarthy—the same way I was going.
As I got halfway through the wide intersection, the guy in the Corolla started to turn right. Directly into my path.
I honked the horn politely, but firmly. It is possible he somehow didn’t see me.
Surely my honk would stop him from turning.
Not even close.
He continued going. I laid on my horn hard, now trying to prevent a collision. Remember, Josie is in the back right—if he plows into me, she is at risk of harm.
The asshole still didn’t stop! Didn’t even slow. It was as if HE had a clear, green light. My presence was not acknowledged in the slightest.
Now, I’ve been a professional driver for eight-plus years now. I’ve logged hundreds of thousands of miles up and down the state of California. I’ve seen—and been forced to dodge—some very bad maneuvers and a handful of awful collisions right before my eyes.
The only way to be in my profession and cope with all the illegal turns and tailgating and unsafe lane changing and reckless speeding so prevalent on California highways is to just accept that—like voting, reproducing, rapping, and a bevy of other actions—there are folks legally allowed to drive who shouldn’t be.
I’ve conditioned myself to simply shrug off bad driving around me, no matter how egregious, in the name of sanity.
But this? A third party would have no trouble believing Corolla was trying to hit my car. If I hadn’t slammed on my brakes, screeching them and skidding into the usually-congested left lane, that’s exactly what would have happened! When it was over, beige Corolla went happily on his way up McCarthy, with nary an apologetic wave or gesture of any kind.
I angrily slammed my own dashboard and spat a nasty swear or two.
Josie is okay. We’re all okay. My car is undamaged. Maybe on a different day when my ex isn’t being such an…ex, I let this go.
Maybe on a different day, when I’m coming off a four-homer game of softball rather than a two-hit, two-error travesty, I let this go.
Maybe on a different day, when I’m not so bent out of shape over some chick who’s more out of my reach than Calculus is to Kelly Pickler, I can simply let go of the fact that some dick came thisclose to smashing up my car with my baby inside and didn’t even appear remorseful.
But it wasn’t a different day.
It was Saturday, September 18. A day in which the long-dormant Skillzilla ached to rear his ugly head and vent his pent-up rage on the first viable target.
We continued up McCarthy, with beige Corolla about 200 feet ahead of us. I quietly seared. My ex has known me for nine years, seven of those we spent as a couple. She knows me better than anyone. She could tell from the steely look on my bearded face that I was not okay with what just happened.
“Babe,” she said to me, using the nickname she’s used on me since we first became an item back in 2002. “…are you okay?” I wasn’t okay. Not by a longshot. I was already PMSing and now this clown almost hit my car? WITH MY 10-MONTH OLD DAUGHTER AT THE POINT OF IMPACT??? I couldn’t just shrug this one off. I wouldn’t. “I’m going to educate that fool. “ I declared succinctly and sternly, semi-quoting the villain in James Patterson’s Run For Your Life.
She had no idea how to respond. I don’t do this sort of thing. I’m not the kind of guy who gets in other people’s faces unless he has to. I’d never been overcome by Road Rage before. But I’d never had Josie’s safety risked so recklessly before, either. Something inside me snapped. I became eerily calm.
There is practically nothing on this part of McCarthy besides the back entrance to the plaza; it ends only a short ride after said entrance. So I knew that beige Corolla would be headed to the same place as I, in all likelihood. Asshole would not be hard to find.
I caught up to him in the Wal-Mart lot, where he parked his ride. I parked mine about three spaces west, got out, and made a bee-line to his. I didn’t know who I was dealing with. This could have been a Marine. This could have been a parolee. This could have been a roided-up football player. This could have been a total psycho having an even worse 15 hours than I was! I didn’t care.
As furious as I was, I didn’t intend to engage in fisticuffs. As I said, I just aimed to educate. My ex is notorious for getting into animated “discussions” with other drivers, something I’ve scolded her for in the past out of concern for her safety. Now here I am going a step further.
He was sitting there, reading a paper with the engine still running and the window up. I actually didn’t mean to rap on his window as hard as I did, but I was trembling with rage and not fully in control of my extremities, apparently. (And though I didn’t know it at the time, I realized later that if this dude disrespected me in any way, something very, very bad for both of us would have taken place.)
He quickly rolled it down. I quickly began the lesson. He seemed to know right away who I was and why I was there.
ME: So I don’t suppose I’ll get at least an apology?
GUY: I apologize.
ME: That was shitty. I honk my horn and you KEEP GOING? My DAUGHTER is in that f---ing car!!!
GUY: I apologize, man. I’m sorry.
At this point I can see that this guy, who seems to be my size if not bigger, and about 5-10 years older, was willing to do just about anything to keep me from going Bill Romanowski on him. I’m no brawler, but with my shaved head, full beard, 6’2”/290lb. stature and a very unpleasant expression on my face, I probably did look just a tad menacing.
I took a deep breath and warned him to put down the paper and watch where he was going. And it was over. I made my point and went back to my car. He quickly booked it from the parking lot.
Safely inside the store with my family five minutes later, still incensed over what went down, I suddenly caught a glimpse of Josie, sitting proudly in the foldout of the shopping cart. She looked at me and smiled, as if to say “I love you, Dad.” In that moment, it dawned on me just what a collision could have meant to her. I raised my daughter from the cart and held her close to me for several minutes, grateful she was unhurt, grateful she was mine. I was overcome with emotion that, thank goodness, didn’t disintegrate into sobbing.
It wasn’t the beast Skillzilla that caused me to temporarily lose my mind. It was love for Josie. I knew it was possible to love someone that much, but I didn’t know it was possible for ME to love someone that much—so much that I’d confront a total stranger who was an armed gangster, for all I knew, just because he endangered her safety. This was a good sign, because she will need me to be her protector and “avenger” when she’s older. It’s part of the job of being Dad.
I’m not making myself out to be Medgar Evers or the “Tank Man”; I’m no hero. But you have to understand that situations like this, I typically let roll off my back, in the name of preserving harmony, because there are real nuts in society who also have pent-up rage to vent—and they use guns and knives to do it. It’s best to have as few enemies as possible. But sometimes in life you have to take a stand...
…especially if your beloved little girl needs you to.