Friday, October 26, 2012

When driving, pretend you are in the Islands

Road rage isn’t a topic I would have expected to be explaining to my kids yesterday on the way to school.  My 3 girls love our little drive to school every morning, because they get to ride in the Volvo.   Otherwise, they are accustomed to riding in our 2000 minivan, with all the normal comforts of this century.

So, why would kids be anxious to ride in a 1985 volvo, no shocks, no electric windows, no stereo, no a/c?  It’s because the oldest gets to sit in the front seat and the other 2 sit right by the window that they can actually roll down by hand.  You may be wondering why my 10 year old gets to ride in the front seat, when the car holds 5 passengers.  Well, the weird thing about this “ultra safe car” – built with steel exterior straps or something like that – is that there are no headrests in the rear seat. Not sure what a Scandinavian car maker was thinking, except that it allows the rear seat to nicely fold down to make a larger wagon cargo area.   Kawai’s head is way taller than that back seat, and by California law she is supposed to sit there for 2 more years.   But since the car doesn’t have air bags, I figure she’s actually safer riding up front in case of whip lash.   And the fact that she is almost my height anyway.

So we were on our way to school, and I had chosen the freeway route, which is never very busy and is quite leisurely.  As I signal to exit at our off-ramp, a newish-looking SUV behind me is also pulling off, and apparently wants to go twice my speed, even though the off-ramp has a sharp 20 mph turn.  I feel panic set in as I see in my rear-view mirror that he actually wants to pass me on the off-ramp but it’s only one lane.  The mother bear inside of me is quickly unleashed, and I think, "how dare you try to run over my cubs".  My adrenaline rises quicker than I can reason with, and I confess: I gave him the finger.

Luckily that didn't really get me into trouble, as he quickly made a left turn on the street, just as I made a right.

I mumbled some sort of thing about crazy drivers making me give them the finger, and then my darling, innocent 7 year old asks, “what does that mean, mom?”

“It means I’m mad at him, he wanted to run us over, in fact, he almost did.”

“Oh….are you supposed to give them the finger?”


“Does Dad do that?”

That got me wondering, why am I the one who is quick to honk my horn in traffic, or wave the bird, but my honey never seems to do that sort of thing.

Then it all clicked into place.  He is from the aloha state, where road rage does not yet exist.  I am from the bay area, where road rage and many other things have existed long before I was born there.  I probably learned to flip a driver off from my 9th grade Driver’s ed teacher at Berkeley High School.
So, when I first moved to Hawaii, I was in disbelief at how nice the drivers were.  We didn't even live on Moloka’i where there is only one stop sign to have to obey. We lived in Honolulu where there is plenty of gridlock, one-way streets, streets that turn one-way at different times of the day, 45 minute commutes to go 8 miles. Yet the drivers are as polite as could be. If you want to cut in, you make your friendly shaka and the driver behind smiles and slows down just for you.  If you missed your turn and want to quick get back into your lane, no problem, the drivers will wave you on with a shaka.

Amazing how quickly you can adjust to aloha-style driving.  And then after I had been acclimated to this for about 2 years, we moved to the mainland.  I didn’t even get 8 miles into the state of Utah before my road rage was reentering my system.  How unfriendly those drivers were. They speed past you, tailgate, cut you off, don’t let you merge, never with any friendly waves or smiles.  I was in such culture shock, that my first item of business was going to be a letter to the editor asking all Utahns to drive with aloha.

But after a few weeks of living in Utah, I forgot that aloha driving even existed.  You would never ever know that unless you experienced it first-hand. The keiki of Hawaii have probably never even heard the word road rage and I hope it stays that way forever.

So next time I feel my adrenaline rise to almost overflowing, because some vehicle infringes on my space, or doesn't act in accordance with my preferred driving style, I am going to try to pretend I am in Hawaii and see what happens.  And if we all did that, could we truly eliminate mainland roadrage?

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