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Anger Leads to Funerals

David Frederick Hepburn

Hurry up please! Move it lady!!! The finger twitched. It was heading for the horn but failed to go through with it. Then it turned to make a mad dash out the window to let this frustrating driver ahead of me know what it thought of their “driving, in Italian. Again I stopped it, but it kept trying to go for the window or the horn or my neck... in a slashing gesture. Her Tercel, three inches ahead of my front bumper, eased up to the stoplight with the right signal light on. It could have easily turned, given that there the streets were as empty as a lingerie shop in cell block C. Just stayed there waiting for the light to turn green. I was significantly late for work and for a doctor to say significant I am talking maybe 20 or 30... ummm... hours. Green! Means Go! No not yet, she had to check and double check that the street that had no cross traffic the entire time we sat at the light had not suddenly spawned a herd of buffalo or a fleet of Hummers.

Slow turn, crawl, speeding up, 17kph. Green light up ahead. Approaching the brilliant green light she slowed and slowed almost willing it, tempting it to turn amber (yes I said amber). And it did. She hit the brakes as though the stork had dropped the next Dalai Lama adorned in the crown jewels right in front of the Tercel. Intuition told me that she wouldn’t turn on this red either. Finger heading to horn, resists. Finally green and a long slow turn again. The light ahead was also green so of course she started to slow down again in order to coax the amber to make an appearance.

I had had enough. The fickle finger of Ferraris flashed forward and smacked the horn. This was not likely an unfamiliar sound to her. Her blonde head leaned forward and peered into her rear view mirror and then leaned back and the Tercel moseyed along as though my horn were meant for a rabbit that had darted out between our vehicles, though given our speed, a large flock of African tortoises could have crossed between our vehicles unscathed. And as my luck would have it she, of course, appeared to be taking the exact route that I was.

David Frederick Hepburn

Finally, I slunk into the office, steam emanating from every pore. Apologizing to the first 27 patients for being late. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry....” “Good morning doctor. In a bit of rush this morning were we?” I stared at the blonde in the stirrups (great title for my next Harlequin) and I turned amber and then red but this time out of embarassment. I am ashamed to say that this is a true episode. Where my blood pressure before was likely thru the roof, now as my face started to blanch it was likely in my boots.

While a horn honk isn’t exactly road rage, it turns out that the fuming I felt the last 45 minutes it took me to travel three blocks could cost my health dearly. Most of us in a similar situation will simmer and stew rather than take out a Louisville Slugger and turn the Tercel into a Ter-pancake. (This happened 1200 times last year in the US. In Canada it happens 1200 times in the Maple Leafs parking lot.) But it is the duration, rather than the intensity and frequency, of anger that raises the risk of us dying prematurely a stunning fivefold.

Anger elevates blood pressure, increases threat of stroke, heart disease, depression, anxiety disorders, and, in general, depresses the immune system (angry people get more colds), tension headaches and stomach problems. To make matters worse, angry people tend to seek relief from their ill-moods, caused by anger, through other health-endangering habits, such as smoking, drinking or watching bowling.

When you are angry, you are pouring nasty stress hormones into your blood system. Anger acts on the entire central nervous system as non stop adrenaline. But it produces a physiological "crash," often experienced as depression, particularly when the issues causing the anger remain unresolved. And despite popular belief anger is something we decide we want to have. It is NOT beyond our control but rather is developed as a habit or coping technique.

So if we experience this kind of anger or impatience when we drive, every day, all our lives, over the years it's going to have a very strong negative health effect on the driver. Road rage places the driver of a vehicle in a sustained "fight or flight" situation. Sort of "driving under the influence” of adrenaline

And of course when you're angry you tend to lose concentration and you’re likely to drive faster and less attentively, turning you into an accident waiting to happen.

General performance and impaired problem solving prevent you from, you know....doing stuff....whatever. (Sorry, sorry, sorry, I know what I want to say I just... can’t put my finger on it.)