My first week in Minneapolis, I turned onto Lake Street and found myself heading the wrong direction.
I raised my hand to indicate my guilt and offer apologies to the oncoming traffic. But instead of swerving around me, my new Minneapolis comrades did something I didn't expect.
And we idled there, all six of us, stalemated in the middle of the intersection — me with my hands above my head, mouthing "I’m sorry," and them with white knuckles and tight lips, their faces twisting to hide a festering rage.
“What is it that you want me to do, exactly?” I said to no one. Yes, I screwed up. Do we have to make a thing about it? Please, let it go. I have somewhere to be, and apparently need directions getting there.
A few weeks ago, I pulled out in front of a woman driving a Subaru stationwagon. In my own defense, taking a left out of my local grocer's parking lot is always pretty dicey. Parked cars obstruct the view. The angle of oncoming traffic lands squarely in my blind spot.
And let me be clear: I only pulled out beside the Subaru-driver into the adjacent lane. I was nowhere near her. Nonetheless, she recoiled as if accosted by a raccoon, and then proceeded to yell and point at me from the safety of her jaunty Outback.
I shrugged. Once again, I mouthed the words “I’m sorry!” But that wasn’t enough. Her misplaced anger flailed against the driver’s side window with the tenacity of a cat trying to exit a bathtub.
My family moved to Minneapolis three years ago from New York City, where we lived for over a decade.
It had taken me a while to build up the courage to drive in Manhattan. Honestly, it seemed like a good way to end up in a neck brace. But I dug deep, did a little positive self-talk, and eventually found myself behind the wheel.
There, I found that drivers never slowed down or stopped unless it was absolutely necessary. But they used their turn signals. They let people in. They slowed down a little when it was snowing. There was a sense we were all in this together, the lunacy of driving on that crazy island grid. We accepted that other drivers made mistakes. We knew that sometimes the best option was to take a deep breath, step on the gas and just go.
And look, I’m not an award-winning driver. In fact, my wife rarely lets me drive when our kids are in the car. This says about as much about my driving skills as it does about her personality.
But in those times when I am alone, and therefore permitted to commandeer our family-size vehicle, I have concluded that Minnesota drivers vibrate — often quite violently — between how they want to be perceived and how they really feel inside.
I've observed that each Minnesota driver has two personalities fighting inside them: “I’m an Outdoorsy Zen Nordic Type” and “I’m a Reckless Existentialist Swede.”
That leaves drivers stuck in a psychologically tenuous state, causing them to behave erratically. They stop when they don’t have a stop sign (Outdoorsy Zen). They rarely use their turn signals (Reckless Existentialist). They merge tentatively on the highway and drive too slowly in the left lane (Outdoorsy Zen). Or they drive too fast in the right, and entirely too fast on icy roads (Reckless Existentialist).
I’m left either sighing in disbelief at the snail’s pace of traffic, or gasping in horror at how thoroughly I was dusted by that pick-up truck with a six-point buck strapped to its hood.
I would like to suggest to my fellow Minnesota drivers that it’s okay — preferable, even — to get angry. And it’s most effective to do so outside of your personal safety zone. After all, anger is a useful emotion. It focuses us. It burns calories and releases adrenaline.
But it’s crucial that you channel the anger, spread it out a bit, have confidence that it’s justified. Don’t put the beast in a kennel all day and then unleash it while you’re alone in the car.
In New York, there are plenty of ways to channel anger. Whether it’s waiting for a delayed subway train, tripping over a refrigerator someone left on the sidewalk or slipping on someone’s abandoned wig, there’s always somewhere to focus your frustrations. Eventually you learn to accept, and even embrace, these wonderful opportunities to let off steam.
Maybe there just isn’t enough juicy stuff to get mad about here in Minnesota. My neighborhood message board was recently jammed with people aghast over someone’s decision to throw away rather than donate a futon mattress. It’s no wonder people erupt with fury in their cars — they are the victims of a lack of opportunity.
So perhaps we should all get together and scream into each other’s faces for a few minutes every day. How about we meet the middle of the Hennepin-Lake intersection? It can’t hurt, right?
Jason Good is the author of three books: “This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing,” “Must Push Buttons” and, most recently, a memoir, “Rock, Meet Window." Despite his traffic concerns, Jason really does enjoy living in Minneapolis.
ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 takes features first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota. Got a story to tell? Send your draft to firstname.lastname@example.org.