Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Traffic. It’s my latest cussword.

When we first moved to this area twelve years ago, traffic was light and people were friendly. Then we started growing with shopping centers and new subdivisions. Now traffic stinks and people are no longer as courteous. I’m convinced the traffic does them in.

Not just the irritation of heavy traffic, although that’s bad enough. But being enclosed in their private capsules where they can get as angry as they want, cuss as much as they want, and flip the bird anytime they feel like it … I think that’s set a low standard of behavior that’s spilling out of the cars and into the rest of life.

Traffic is naturally aggravating when it’s heavy. Lots of delays, lots of people pulling moves that you can scarcely believe when you see them:

What, did that guy just cut straight across three lanes of moving traffic to get to the left turn lane? Did I really see that woman make a left turn from the right turn lane? Why are people ignoring the no right turn arrow and pulling out into oncoming traffic? Who let all these nuts loose?

So you draw a deep breath, try to keep a safety bubble around you … and immediately somebody darts into that space, just barely missing the front end of your car.

It’s crazy-making, and the crazier it gets, the more often you see people start doing crazy things out of impatience. Then, as the traffic gets heavier, a five-minute run to the store starts to take twenty. That’s irritating, too.

So by the time you get out of your car, you’re ready to chew someone’s head off. Unfortunately, the next someone you meet is going to be a cashier or clerk. No fair attacking them, but people do.

I’m convinced that one of the best things we could do for common civility in this country is to make us all ride trains and buses. The stress would be gone, and we’d have to be polite when we’re face-to-face.

You know, come to think of that, the internet could use some of that, too.

Our increasing sense of anonymity lets our limbic region loose. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give way to our forebrain quickly enough. And we walk around in a rage looking for a target.

I generally don’t like to play music while I’m driving since I might fail to hear something important, like a siren, but in self-defense I’ve taking to playing music that makes me feel cheerful and upbeat. I don’t need all that adrenaline and rage. And since I can’t yet escape traffic because we don’t have public transport, I turn on the music.

Play a little music. Your day may go a whole lot better.

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