30 March 2014

Idiots on the Road

When I was first learning how to drive (on a road with traffic, as opposed to in a field before I was old enough to get my learner’s licence) I was told that when someone is tailgating you, the best thing to do is to slow down and let the person pass you. This makes sense on a road with only two lanes, one for each direction, and seems to make just as much sense on a road with multiple lanes going in each direction. Obviously, you should only be in the far left lane (the fast lane) if there is traffic going slower than you would like in the other lanes. But, what should you do when this is the case and someone is tailgating you?

It is common knowledge that people tailgate because they are idiots. (I have looked into the etymology of the word idiot, so I can assure you that this is the correct term.) Tailgating is seemingly an attempt to make the person in front drive faster. If the person in front is already driving the speed limit or even 10 km/h (6.2 mph) over, this is an attempt to coerce this person to do something immoral (see: 2290 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Obviously, the person tailgating very much wants to exceed the speed limit and “endanger their own and others’ safety on the road.”

If there are multiple lanes going the same direction, you could pull into a slower lane when an idiot is tailgating you. But why should you? You are in the fast lane because people in the other lanes are driving too slow. You have a right to be in the fast lane without exceeding the speed limit, or maybe just exceeding it a little bit. Additionally, the idiot behind you needs to be taught a lesson, so you do slow down to the speed limit, or maybe even a bit below the speed limit.

Now let’s be clear: You are teaching an idiot a lesson? As I said, I’ve looked into the etymology of the word idiot (i.e. the 14th century usage involving a mental deficiency that makes ordinary reasoning impossible; not the Latin idiota, nor the Greek ἰδιώτης), so I know you are attempting to do something that is almost certainly not going to happen. Think about this: if you see an idiot waving a gun, a knife, or some other weapon around, do you think it’s wise to walk up to this person to teach him a lesson? Unless you’re one of my readers from the United States that has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, only an idiot would do that. (This is assuming that my readers do not include the idiots that do have a permit to “carry”; and, if you are one, I’m not enough of an idiot to imply that you are one.)

The best thing to do when you see an idiot with a weapon is to get out of harms way; and, a ¾ ton truck going 120 km/h (75 mph) can be a very unpredictable weapon. (It’s been my observation that idiots gravitate towards large trucks. I guess it’s not as easy to intimidate other drivers with a small fuel efficient car.)

Once you are out of harms way, you may still be insulted with a one finger salute; however, it is always best to quietly endure insults from idiots with weapons. One person once told me they sometimes salute other drivers with one finger under the dashboard to maintain a Christian appearance, but this is not helpful to you, nor to the idiot. The best advice for such a situation came from a homily I heard Msgr. Don McDonald give during a weekday morning Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica almost twenty years ago: “Pray for the other drivers around you.” In this case, the idiot in particular.

The 14th century usage of the word idiot denotes a mental deficiency that makes ordinary reasoning impossible, and only God can heal such deficiencies. However, I wouldn’t suggest praying, “God, heal that idiot of his mental deficiency.” Instead, I suggest praying, “God, make that person a saint.”

This is my standard prayer for everyone, including myself. You just can’t go wrong with this one. Without a doubt, if this is your prayer for all of the other drivers on the road, and yourself, you will start to feel much calmer and more relaxed while you drive. And, you’re less likely to drive like an idiot.

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain

My favourite use of the word idiot was by a retired Polish priest who often used the technical term “Church idiots” in his homilies in reference to clerics and teachers who contradict Church teaching and law.