I'm a mild-mannered reporter -- like Clark Kent, but without the secret super powers.
I don't typically yell at people in traffic. I try very hard not to swear in the car. But there is one thing in traffic that makes the rage burble up like lava, makes me wish I carried a carton of eggs in the front seat, makes me wish unthinkable things on people I don't know -- and that is intersection blocking.
You've seen this. You're waiting to cross a major street. It's rush hour. You have the light. But you can't move, because a string of yahoos decided to move into the intersection and SIT THERE through your light because they can't move forward. You can't move around them.
You wonder -- what makes people do this? What awful crime was committed against them when they were children that makes them want to destroy the afternoons of innocent strangers? Did someone take their candy? Did the homecoming queen turn them down for the spring dance? They can see ahead of them. They know traffic is bad enough and slow enough that they can't clear the intersection. But they block it, from either sheer stupidity or sheer spite.
Mike Royko -- who was an even crankier Pole than I am -- once opined on this subject in a February 1990 column. As he sat in a blizzard, waiting for a goofy woman who was blocking the way, he thought about the human brain: "Einstein's equation: energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared, Edison searching the world for a filament that would light our homes and streets. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Popiel's Pocket Fisherman. But there sat this creature, blessed with a three-pound brain mass and those millions of cells. Yet she was incapable of a simple thought: 'If I put my foot on the gas and creep a few more yards, I'll stop and when the light changes those people on my left won't get past me.'" (My attempts to link to this column failed, but you can find it in the collection "For the Love of Mike.")
I suspect that conditions today are much worse than when Royko was driving. He saw one woman during a blizzard -- I can see four cars doing this at once on a sunny day at the intersection leading out of the Jewel east of Six Corners.
Tom Vanderbilt, the author of the book "Traffic," believes that the odds of encountering a jerk while driving are higher than ever, due to increased congestion and the fact that there are more jerks in the population -- judging from studies showing an increase in selfish behavior. As Vanderbilt explained it to me, "traffic is filled with people who think the roads belong to them -- it's 'MySpace' -- that being inside the car absolves them from any obligation to anyone else."
Maybe it's narcissism, maybe it's stupidity. Whatever it is, I will refrain from throwing eggs. But I will throw curses -- silent curses. May you inherit a hotel with a 100 rooms, and be found dead in every one. May your next car be a 1988 Ford Escort. May all the best pictures of your children appear on the "Wanted" posters at the police station. And may every person you encounter on the road drive exactly like you.