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On the road to forgiveness

 

 

THE FIFTH COLUMN

There are no laws forcing anyone to drive behind others with their lights on dim, because good manners are not policed on our roads. Making matters worse, it is often those behind the wheel of an SUV driving much higher off the ground than the rest of us — at eye level, you could say — who have this need to see so much more of the road at night.

I have seen the sun come up behind me in the dark of night many times, and, however far I turn my rear-view mirror, or the other cheek, I cannot seem to get out of my mind how inconsiderate driving with one’s brights on is — and how little someone doing so deserves the small amount of tolerance I’ve generated for others. They fall in the category of the unforgivable. My judgment of them is swift, absolute and guilt-free.

Yes, there might be grounds for mitigating circumstances or, at the very least, an effort should be made to try to understand why mostly SUV drivers choose to drive with their brights on. Granted, they might not know what they’re doing, although this is hard to believe; the SUV’s dashboard and “brights on” indicator is so much bigger than other cars. Night blindness might be at play, but again you have to question how someone afflicted with night blindness has managed to get their hands on a luxury vehicle.

I’ve considered those reasons, and others, but in the glare of an SUV driver’s headlamps I think terrible thoughts. I can understand, for instance how someone might follow an SUV when it passes, because it will, and confront the driver and possibly lay a hand on them.

In terms of my own actions, my current approach leans towards the passive, which is to simply switch on my own brights, thereby lighting up the SUV’s huge rear and, hopefully, blinding its driver.

Despite the initial thrill, this routine brings me no joy. The SUV simply speeds away and leaves the night behind and I’m left wondering in the dark whether all the upheaval was worth it. Whether turning the rear-view mirror was not enough to soften the blow and I too, for a few minutes, didn’t enjoy the benefit of the latest LED technology helping me to see as far as the human eye can possibly see.

Forgiveness is a lofty ideal, I find. The old recommendation to forgive and forget, however practical it seems, has always sounded to me like a bucket-list item: great to aim for, but not something I’ll ever achieve. Although I’ve clearly not forgotten about the incident in question, for it is seared onto the back of my mind, I hope to have moved closer to forgiveness. Night blindness may indeed have played a role. The SUV driver may have had a bad experience with roadkill.

Whatever the case, me resenting SUV drivers who drive with their brights on from this moment on is not going to improve their use of headlamps. In fact, few times has my anger had any sort of lasting consequence on the behaviour of another. None, come to think of it. Holding grudges simply doesn’t work in the way I want them to. It’s time to move on.

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Hans Mackenzie Main
Hans Mackenzie Main
Writer/Columnist at Mail & Guardian

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