Women Jumping Out of Cars

Last week I waited to make a left turn into my neighborhood and saw a woman jump out of the shot gun seat of a car idling at a red light.  She looked as if someone had goosed her.  The driver made no effort to call her back though she stood on a nearby curb and stared intently at him.  She bounced on her toes as if waiting for him to make a move.  She began to walk away after a minute passed, and then he finally turned the car in her direction.  Negotiations had begun.

I saw a more vivid version of this story a few years earlier.  I heard yelling inside a car beside me on Semoran Boulevard.  We were stopped at a red light.  The front passenger door flew open.  A twenty year old woman slammed it shut and stomped away.  She veered behind the car, stepped onto the median and quickly put distance between her and the car’s driver.  He leaned out the window and called, “Hey, baby!  Come back!”  She ignored him and kept going.  Then he began to cuss her out in Spanish, shook his fist at her, and hit the horn once.  She kept going.  When the light turned green he made a u-turn and slowly headed in her direction.  He looked grim as if he expected no success in retrieving her.

Twenty years ago I heard yelling up the street from my house.  It was 1 a.m., so I peeked out my front door and saw a woman staggering across a lawn at the neighbor’s across the street.  Two or three men were inside a car idling at the curb, and one ordered the woman to get back in the car.  She screamed at him.  Her speech slurred, but I believe she told him to go to hell.  She knocked on my neighbor’s door–no one answered.  The man in the car yelled again, this time with greater violence.  I stepped outside and headed toward the woman.  When the men saw me they realized that a witness had arrived, and they sped away.

The woman spotted me and staggered to where I stood at the bottom of my driveway.  She asked if she could use my phone.  I let her inside and pointed to our land line.  I asked her if she wanted some coffee to help her sober up.  She glared and said, “I’m not drunk!  My boyfriend hit me!”

I retreated to the kitchen to get her some ice, and while I was gone my wife woke up.  Judy came out to the living room half awake.  She found a strange woman with crazy hair talking on our phone.  The lady’s outfit, cut offs and a sweaty tube top, gave her a street look.  I took Judy aside before she could make unfortunate assumptions and explained the situation.  The woman put a hand over the mouth piece and asked, “Where am I?”  I told her, and then she gave instructions to the person on the line:  “Pick me up at the 7/11 at Forsyth and Aloma.”

She hung up, and I offered her a ride to the convenience store.  She refused and headed out the door.  I followed after her and watched her walk up Bougainvillea Dr.  I worried that her tormentors might return.  A police car turned the corner and stopped next to her.  She waved her arms, shook her head and refused to get in the cruiser.  They let her go shortly after, and she strode away with firm, determined steps.  She turned the corner and disappeared, and the cops drove on.

Fifty years ago my mother stepped out of a car after an argument with my father.  We were stopped at a light about three miles from home.  We three kids huddled together in the back seat and wished that the nightmare would end soon.  My father drove off, and Mom’s figure grew smaller and smaller in the rear window.  I felt an odd sensation that I was the one left behind.  Two hours later Mom opened the front door to our house, came inside, and hung up her coat in the hall closet.  We all pretended that nothing had happened.

Road Rage Follies: Driving in Orlando

I drove my wife home from an appointment the other day and we pulled into the left hand turn lane leading from Aloma onto Eastbrook. My wife suffers from vertigo, and sudden turns and accelerations aggravate her condition. There were spaces between the cars coming from the opposite direction, but they were all roaring along at high speed. Any attempt at making the turn would require me to floor the accelerator. I was willing to patiently wait, but the guy behind me was not. Every time a car passed and there was a brief opening in the traffic he tooted his horn at me. After the fourth toot the light turned yellow. I edged into the middle of the intersection and ever so slowly crept to the left as several cars ran the light. When the light turned red I made the turn like a doddery old man in an attempt to strand the horn happy driver in the turn lane. I succeeded.

I usually feel anxious when another driver decides to give me the finger, cut me off, lean on his horn, or swear at me, but this time I felt strangely elated. Screwing that guy felt right. And his behavior seemed more childish than threatening. If he wanted to raise his blood pressure by getting angry then that was his choice.

That evening I went to a Publix in Casselberry to pick up some things for the weekend. The exit lane had a traffic light, and there were five cars stacked up ahead of me. The driver in front of my car had pulled over to the far right and had her right hand turn signal on. There was room enough for me to slide ahead of her and get into the left hand turn lane. However when I passed her she looked up from her cell phone and shouted, “Hey!” She sounded offended as if I had jumped her place in line. I wondered if she had flipped the wrong turn signal and wanted to make a left hand turn. When the light turned green I waited to let her pass ahead of me in case she wanted to go left. She didn’t. When she reached the light she turned right.  I hadn’t impeded her progress in any fashion.  But before she exited the lot and as she passed by me she leaned out the window and cursed. “You fucker!” she screamed at me.

I felt a little quiver of excitement as her verbal assault fully registered, and on the way home I got that strange feeling of elation again. I felt both amused and full of energy as if the woman’s curse had somehow worked in reverse and had become a blessing.

I’ve been driving in Orlando for 24 years. Prolonged exposure to congested roads, tourists wandering lost from lane to lane, and impatient creeps who truly don’t care how recklessly they drive, may have inured me to normal feelings of outrage. Or perhaps I’ve developed a sense of detachment that borders on a state of Zen awareness…or maybe I’ve become a sadistic creep who enjoys the self-inflicted misery of my fellow drivers.

I think that the last one sounds about right.