Murphy’s law on the road
A friend of mine is known for his laid-back and prudent personality. However, whenever he is driving, his composure disappears, and he transforms into a race-car driver. Whenever he spots the slightest gap in the next lane, he floors the gas pedal and shoots ahead. If the car in front of him is hesitant, he would flicker the headlights as a warning right away. He alternates between sudden acceleration and sudden stops and is eager to change lanes and drive over the speed limit. When I sit in the passenger seat in his car, I doubt whether the driver is the same person I have known for years. I never asked him about his driving habits, but I presume that he is relieving his stress through reckless driving.
In fact, I, too, relieve stress with reckless driving. I am a reserved person in general, but I turn into a reckless racer when I drive. When I am on the road, I tailgate and yell at other cars, cut in front of them and change two lanes at once. Even when I am not late or in a hurry, I become somehow impatient and reckless. It has become a habit. I try to justify that I am relieving stress when driving, but there is something not quite right about this.
In rush-hour traffic, no matter how much you fret, you won’t get to your destination quickly. In fact, you get more stressed out. When you are stuck in heavy traffic, you get more nervous and impatient. When you change lanes in the congested road, the one you switched to suddenly slows down, and the one you just left starts to move. Murphy’s law - anything that can go wrong will go wrong - is always true on the road. My impatience seems to make sure Murphy’s law applies. Whenever I fidget and change lanes, Murphy’s law kicks in. So I just cannot blow any stress away.
Not so long ago, I stayed in a hospital for a few days, and a doctor diagnosed that excessive stress may have been the cause of my symptoms. On the first day I drove after being released from the hospital, I firmly made up my mind that I would not change lanes unless necessary. Suddenly, driving became comfortable and easy, as I was no longer eyeing other lanes. I kept a safe distance from the car in front of me, and I was relaxed. Finally, the congestion began. Suddenly, a car from the next lane cut in without giving a signal. “I was like that,” I thought, and resisted my urge to honk. Then another one cut in, and the car behind me honked and blinked its headlights in protest, “You let those cars in and are slowing down the whole lane!” I had to move up closer to the car in front of me. Then I started to fret again. Then the space on the next lane caught my eye. Murphy’s law kicked in again.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo