So, I was driving south on Interstate 395 today (during the evening rush hour) and had a pretty freaky experience. I pulled up behind a car that was going a little slower than I really wanted to go, but not so slow that it was worth passing them since I was pretty close to my exit. I slowed down to their speed and stayed behind them at a safe following distance.

After a short period, the driver in front of me started gesturing wildly, throwing her right arm around the car in a random fashion. I had no reason to believe that she was gesturing at me, but I definitely thought it was a little odd. A few moments later, she started slamming on her brakes at random intervals (as a road-rager might if trying to scare a tailgater . . . except, since I wasn’t tailgating, it didn’t have the desired affect).

As she slowed down to around 45 miles-per-hour in an area where most were going 65, I started looking to merge left and go around her. Because there were a lot of cars and they were all going fast, I was unsuccessful. The weirdo in front of me kept gesturing and slowing down. Suddenly, she jumped (without signaling) into the right merge lane, at which point I floored the accelerator and zoomed past her.

As I passed her, she laid on the horn. Then (again, without signaling) she jumped back behind me (cutting somebody else off) still applying the horn and blinking her high beams at me. Her actions were undeniably dangerous. More frightening, her demeanor suggested that even the slightest retaliatory action would have provoked her to violence.

This is not the first time that I have seen other drivers react angrily on the road without any real justification.

One particularly annoying time was on a late-night return trip from southern Virginia a few years back. Heading up 29 I kept leap-frogging with a truck that went 80 miles-per-hour downhill and 45 miles-per-hour uphill. After the truck and I had passed one another several times (with my speed staying consistent—you know, cruise control) he decided to start blocking me by straddling lanes. I hung back and called the State Troopers, but never saw the truck again (I assume he turned off somewhere).

Despite these occasional events, today on 395 really shook me up. The truck driver on 29 had no right to get mad at me, but at least I can intuit his reasoning (wrong as it was). The same goes for the other instances that I linked to. But I cannot conceive of any possible reason—justified or not—why the woman on 395 would behave this way toward me.

I know that people in our society increasingly resort to mindless anger as a way of dealing with their problems (see politics). This is the sad reality of our time. But the very idea that somebody would direct their nearly-violent rage at me for no worse crime than pulling up behind them on the freeway . . . it is repugnant. Worse, it is honestly frightening.