Embracing My Inner Jerk

After feeling like I’d walked into an abandoned office building following some massive nuclear holocaust or something yesterday, I’d thought about just working from my friend’s house today.  However, I do have a couple of face-to-face meetings scheduled, plus I have a lunch date that is closer to the office and closer to Pat’s daytime destination.  So, I have Pat drop me at the office again.  Now this is a bit of a sore subject.  I was supposed to have the car today so that I could get to my lunch date and a doctor’s appointment at the end of the day without having to worry about Pat driving back and forth to cart me around.  However, Pat did not come up with a plan that would allow him to get from my office to the workshop where he’s working today without a car.  So, I’m a little irritated that I am the one who is always stuck asking for rides.

But now, I get to the gym and am a little more cheerful.  I get to walk outside during the sunrise, something that always makes my morning, and then laugh a lot with the guys I workout with.  By the time I’m on my way up to my office, I have forgotten about not having a car.  When I get to my floor, there are actually people there!  Not a lot, but at least a handful in each quadrant of the floor.  I say hello at least 3x on the way to my office and even stop to chat for a minute with 1 person.  It’s a banner day!

When lunch comes, Pat picks me up and drops me at the restaurant where I’m meeting my friend.  My friend has a tight schedule, so I get there early and order for both of us so that she arrives about the same time the food comes out.  This works well–we’re not as anxious about getting our food and eating it fast enough to get her back in time for her next appointment so we can talk more leisurely.  Fortunately for me, she doesn’t need her car the rest of the afternoon, so I’m able to make arrangements to drop her at her office and take her car back to my office when we’re done.  Then, I drive back to her office after work, where Pat will pick me up.  That saves Pat from one round-trip at least.  But, I feel bad having to borrow someone’s car.  Especially since I get caught up in a crisis at the end of the day at work that prevents me from leaving the office until later than I needed to leave.  As a result, I don’t have time to put gas in her car before returning it.  I console myself that the needle hasn’t moved and that I’ve only driven about a 1/2 a gallon’s worth, but I still feel bad.

When Pat picks me up later, I am running late from my appointment, having gotten there late.  We are leaving to return to Chattanooga straight from the office, but now we will get a late start.  Plus, I have a couple things I need to drop off to someone in Grandview, so we have to take a slightly indirect route out of town.  We make the drop and then decide to get dinner before getting on the road.  We stop at Donatos and order subs to go.  However, they’re very busy and there’s a long wait for the food.  Since I’m still trying to wrap up the work situation, I go out to the car and get online for a while.  I get a start on the slides I need for a meeting tomorrow and then I decide to change into more comfortable attire.

Since we have a van with tinted windows, I’m able to do this without anyone noticing by sitting on the floor in the back.  Taking off my work shoes feels so good!  I think my feet are growing now that they’ve been set free in hiking sandals most days–shoving them back into heels feels like foot binding.  Now, taking off my heels has the opposite effect–my feet feel like they are exploding into their preferred size like compressed sponges dipped in water.

We finally get our food and head down the road.  Pat is tired, so I will drive the first stretch.  It’s after 7:00PM.  We accept that we will not make it home tonight. As I merge onto the highway, I’m stuck behind a slower vehicle in front of me.  There is a young guy in an SUV behind me who starts to get over and block me in.  This is one of my pet peeves.  I can understand that we all have moments when we lose patience, but if you’re going to block someone in, make it the person who’s causing the problem, not the innocent victim behind them.  I can’t say I snap.  I really feel totally calm about it.  I just don’t feel like being blocked in.  So, I move over in front of him.  Yes, he has to either swerve or slow down to avoid hitting me.  Yes, it’s a risky move on my part.  But, I just don’t feel up to taking any crap from this guy.

Then, a second merge approaches.  There we are, dejavu all over again.  And what do I do?  You guessed it, I cut him off again.  Only this time, he’s not content to just back off (accompanied by his horn and hand gestures).  Instead, he swerves into the shoulder and continues driving too close to me, holding down his horn.  Now this is what we call an “escalating situation.”

That is the problem with being a jerk–you trigger competitive jerkiness in others which turns into a game of chicken as to which one of you is going to back down first.  The problem is that once you’ve committed yourself to being a jerk, it’s hard to back down.  Fortunately for everyone on the road tonight, I take a deep breath and recognize that I’ve pushed too far and it’s time to back down.  Unfortunately for everyone on the road tonight, he is less forgiving.  He starts cutting in and out of traffic so that he can get in front of me and slam on his brakes.  I take another deep breath and let it go.  I remind myself that he probably doesn’t even know why I cut him off and thinks I’m the only jerk in this scenario.

As luck would have it, he continues out of town along with us.  I laugh to myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if it turns out he’s our next door neighbor?”  He periodically appears in my rearview mirror gesturing at me and then next to me and then in front of me, still angry.  But, as the traffic makes such maneuvers more difficult, he either calms down or gives up.  Thankfully, he disappears near Grove City (aka, “Grove’tucky), which explains it all.  I make a mental note to not cut people off just because I think they’re rude in the future–I admit, it’s not the first time I’ve made this mental note.  At least it kept me wide awake for the first part of my drive.

We cross our fingers as we approach Cincinnati–tonight is not the night to have an hour delay trying to get out of Ohio.  Traffic flows smoothly into town and slows only briefly on the other side of the river as we get into highway construction.  I am starting to nod.  It’s only about 9:30PM, but I’m so mesmerized by the rhythm of the road that I can barely keep my eyes open.  We find a place to pull off to get gas, use the restroom, and switch drivers.  Now I am wide awake again, which is a good thing because I need to finish some slides for a call tomorrow morning.  I work on the deck for the next 2 hours while Pat drives.

Pat gets us to Lexington, KY, but then we are done.  It’s close enough to Chattanooga that we’ll make it back tomorrow morning, so we look for a motel.  However, Pat has stuff in the van that makes him want to stay in a motel where we can park outside the window.  Usually, the choices are limited and these types of motels are not so nice.  The one we find tonight is no exception.  But, we see no signs of bed bugs, so we throw down and tuck in for the night after setting the alarm for an early rise.

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