Posted on December 5, 2018
by Steve Janowick

I was so excited to pick up my little girl and take her out to get something to eat.  Just her and I. Daddy and daughter enjoying some catching up time together at the local diner.  I’ve tried my best through the years to only let my kids see the Dr. Jekyll side of me. The restrained, even-tempered, mild-mannered side that handles any and all negative stimuli with judicious constraint and prudence.  And for the most part, I’ve always been successful in doing so. No kid wants to see their Dad lose control. No kid wants to see Mr. Hyde. That’s quite scary and upsetting to her.

Her mother met me at a halfway point to drop her off and we were having a great conversation while driving about all the goings on in her middle school life. That’s when Toyota Tough Guy came into our lives.  We’ve all had run-ins with him at one time or another. That hellion of the highway. The beast of the backroad. The instigator of the interstate. Ok, I’ll stop. But you get where I’m going. Plain and simple this guy is the king of the douches!

The one-lane road headed south had a 50-mph speed limit and I was doing about 56.  After all, my daughter was 13 at the time and would be driving soon, and I had to set a good example-no speeding. He came up on us like a bat out of hell.  It wasn’t one of those gradual accelerations. One second there was no one behind me, and the next, he was practically touching my bumper. When he downshifted, and I heard the high-pitched scream from his modified exhaust, I knew this wasn’t going to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill tailgater.

The road was way too curvy and busy for him to pass so, for the next six miles, I had to endure Vanilla Ice in his tricked-out 2010 Corolla attempting to harass and intimidate me by slowing down then speeding up to within inches of hitting us.  He got so close a few times, I could actually read those dope lyrics spitting from his lips through my rear-view mirror.

The whole time, of course, I never let on to my little girl what was going on.  She was talking and laughing up a storm while I was trying my absolute hardest to remain calm even though he was putting us in jeopardy.  But that all ended when I slowed down a bit to navigate a bend and he decided to say hello to me with his middle finger.

Now, I was seeing red.  He had flipped the switch in me.  Toyota Tough Guy-meet Mr. Hyde. My daughter knew something was askew when she heard me mumbling under my breath and saw me do “that thing I do” with my jaw while glaring in my rear-view mirror.

The light was approaching and it was red.  Something happens in a man when he’s pushed to his breaking point.  Cognitions go out the window-replaced by guttural instincts. And right now, my instinct told me to get out and maim this prick as soon as the car stopped.  But, think about the girl, I reasoned with myself. I talked myself down.

The lanes split to two at the light and he actually had the gall to eyeball my daughter and give me a “whatcha gonna do about it, Pops?” smirk. Well, here’s what Pops is gonna do about it. I smiled at my daughter to reassure her and put her at ease before exiting the car. I could immediately see this punk’s face morph.  I’m 6’2 and go about 205. I’m not an NFL linebacker but I’m no slouch either. I was pissed, and he damn well knew it as I approached. His window was down, and I leaned myself into his car.

“You are one lucky little prick that I have my daughter with me right now.” My voice was a cross between Jack Nicholson from The Shining and the man with no name from the Spaghetti Westerns.  I was zoned in on him. Spit flying with each syllable. And suddenly, Tough Guy wasn’t so tough anymore. He was frozen with fear.  “I’m tempted to rip that finger off and stick it so far up your ass that you can scratch your throat with it. Do you understand me?”

“…Uh, uh, yes, sir.”

“If you drive like a fool and act like a punk, you better be able to back it up.”

“Yes, sir.”

I got back in my car and we watched as the light turned green and he put his blinker on to turn right like an old grandma headed to a flea market.  We shared a chuckle. Later, we had a wonderful steak dinner together. During dessert, I even tried giving her a few life-lessons about that incident and about driving etiquette, civility and restraint.  It would have been a perfect conversation were it not for the rowdy table of teenagers next to us talking loudly and causing a ruckus.

Stay down, Mr. Hyde.  Stay down.

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