Kansas City always rates high on the most-friendly surveys.
But a couple weeks ago I noticed a spike in the road rage index. It happened while driving down Ward Parkway about nine in the morning. At that time Ward Parkway is busy and the cars have a high snooty factor — like a parade for Aristocrat Motors. Add to that the parkway’s tight lanes and roundabouts that demand a “both-hands-on-the-wheel, eyes-forward” driving discipline, which no one practices these days.
So last month I was navigating it all, paying close attention to cars on both sides and briefly reaching to adjust the radio when I heard a loud honk from a car in my blind spot. We arrived at the stop light together and the car came into view.
It was a white Mercedes — a sporty sedan. Sitting in the seat was a woman in her early 40s, I’m guessing. She was very annoyed, and stressed, apparently, like she had to wait in line at Starbucks for her tall non-fat latte with caramel drizzle when her Apple pay went to zero bars.
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She was a complex picture and I continued to dissect it. One theory that came to mind is that her Tori Burch sandals were giving her blister. Or her hand sanitizer inventory was low. There was no doubt this was a St. Paul’s or Pembroke mom.
I gave her back a slight nod as if to say “chill out lady.” She glared back at me. Frost began to form on my passenger window.
When I got home that night I remarked to Lori, “I had some scary lady in a Mercedes gave me a taste of road rage. I guess maybe she thought I didn’t see her.”
“I bet I know it why” she said. “It was your rental car. Drivers don’t like people who drive minivans.”
I was driving a Hertz rental, courtesy of State Farm, while my car was being repaired. It was a Toyota Sienna. But it was more than that. This rental, as all rentals do for some reason, had out-of-state plates. This one said Georgia. Suddenly the woman’s glare made sense to me. She no doubt concluded I was a home schooler with nine children in town from Atlanta for a volleyball tournament. She also figured I was wearing sweat pants, dirty Crocs with an undersized T-shirt with sippy cups rolling around and colliding with chicken nuggets.
These days, minivans, once the domain of the hip family of four, have gone south. Their sales peaked in 2000 and have been dropping ever since.
Now they are the universe of the Duggars, and other oversized families with reality TV shows long since canceled. On the net, the opinions are plentiful. None is kind. Most have their roots in people stuck behind one at a McDonald’s drive-thru.
In fairness, my rental was lacking some of the other features you see with huge family transports, like stick figures plastered on the back, heavy coating of dust reflecting long trips down dusty roads to find “nature’s toilet” or religious bumper stickers inviting others to honk.
It did have one thing in common with these families — a driver who didn’t mind agitating mothers with 1.5 children born in bubble wrap.
But once I understood the scorn, I relished it. For the next two weeks I invited eye contact at stoplights, occasionally crossed lane dividers and scared pointy-headed drivers from Sunset Hills, Waldo and Brookside.
Next time I get a rental like that, I’m going to drive for Uber.
Reach Matt Keenan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter:MDKeenan2, or visit his blog: www.matthewkeenan.com