I was a young whipper-snapper, maybe all of 22, and late for work as an underpaid, overworked dental assistant for a Big Whig in a small, but oh-so-wealthy New England town. I lived way out in the boondocks and to hear me tell it, the drive to work often took longer than anticipated. The truth of the matter was, I usually got a late start. Back in those days you were expected to be at work no less than 20 minutes before the first patient arrived, but I was always pushing my luck.
One sunny spring morning I found myself trapped behind an old guy (read as: middle age. Probably no older than I am now) who was taking his sweet time driving down a major two-lane highway. Traffic was moderate and I was young, late and impatient. Unable to pass, I rode up his butt for a good three miles before I finally got a chance to zip around him like some kind of wild banshee. As I charged past his vehicle the man turned and looked at me like I was a lunatic. (I was) In a moment of spontaneous defiance I gave him the one finger salute. I probably mouthed some choice words I’d rather not repeat too. In my haste, all I could think was that he was infuriatingly slow and making me late. I floored the accelerator and left him sucking my fumes.
Naturally, the next light was red. I glowered with loathing as the tortoise eased his big old boat up behind my Pinto. My eyes flicked to the rear-view mirror and to my disgust, the man appeared perfectly composed. He even smiled congenially! I smirked and focused on the road ahead. The light changed and my car lurched forward like a horse charging out of the starting gate. I sped down the road only to be forced to a screeching halt at the next traffic light. This scenario repeated itself three times: me blasting ahead with each change of the light, only to be stopped by another red light just a few blocks up the road. There’s nothing worse than passing someone like the Mad Hatter, only to have to sit beside or in front of them at the next red light. I finally ditched him at the forth light; I ran the yellow while he slowed to a halt as the light changed to red. “Good riddance you old putz!” I thought smugly.
I reached the office with only seconds to spare, jumped out of my car and flew up the back stairs still muttering about ignorant, poky drivers. I paused to commiserate with the secretary about the idiot who’d had the nerve to lolly-gag under the speed limit on a busy Monday morning! After sharing a large dose of drama with her (probably a little too loudly) I went to set up my room for my first patient, still riled and distracted by the indignity of oblivious drivers and old cronies. Moments later I heard the bell chime on the waiting room door. Patients trickled in, exchanged greetings and pleasantries with Carol and took a seat. A green light suddenly blinked at my station. I composed myself, put on a big warm professional smile, and went to get my first patient.
And who do you think that patient was?
I haven’t succumbed to the urge to do something quite that stupid in a long time. I’ve come close, but some lessons stick to your ribs!