Last Sunday I had an encounter with a lunatic on the Interstate.
The speed limit through this area is 55. I was in the left lane, passing some trucks, when I realized I was going a bit fast. I do tend to do that if I'm not paying attention, so I try to be aware and keep my speed down. A glance at the speedometer showed that, sure enough, I was creeping past 75, which is definitely too fast, so I hit the brakes and slowed down a bit.
The next thing I hear is a horn honking. I look in the rearview mirror, and the car behind me is backing off from way too close and flashing its headlights at me. Now, I didn't slam the brakes when I noticed how fast I was going. In fact, I took my foot off the gas for a moment, then tapped the brakes. I was in the passing lane and I still had to get past the trucks I was passing. For the car to be as close to me as it was, one of two things had to happen. Either the driver was not paying attention and didn't notice me until almost hitting me, or she was tailgating me and gave herself almost no time to react to me slowing down. Or, I suppose, she felt that 75 in a 55 zone was unacceptably slow. Whatever the situation, she flashed her headlights at me again, then got right back on my ass.
When people get this close to me, when they're in so much of a hurry that they decide to tailgate me, I have a standard way of dealing with that: I slow down. Impatience is its own punishment, after all. I actually considered slowing down enough that the trucks could pass me, then merging into the driving lane, but I decided that would be a bit much. I slowed down to just faster than the trucks were going, which meant I was going about 60. As I passed the last truck in the line, I planned to pull over and let the car behind me shoot past at, I figured, at least 80. Better to have someone like that in front of you than behind you, right?
Being very aware of the concept of safe following distance at this point, I stayed in the passing lane for at least two car lengths past the truck. I know it was at least two car lengths, but not much more, because the moment there was room the car following me pulled so close I couldn't see its headlights, then cut into the driving lane right in front of the truck, then pulled alongside me. There were three women in the car, and they were all looking at me. Even the driver, who had just cut off a trailer truck and now had nearly a three car length lead on it, looked over at me instead of keeping her eye on the road. They were staring so intently that I gave a little smile and a wave in acknowledgment. In retrospect, I think this is what really pissed them off.
As soon as their car was in front of mine, I mean the instant there was room, the driver cut over into my lane, far too close for comfort. It's a good thing I knew exactly what this idiot was planning to do, because I had already shifted my foot to the brake pedal when she slammed on her brakes. I hit mine as well, and kept from getting too close to her, though if I hadn't anticipated her doing this, there's a good chance I would have hit her. She accelerated a bit, but I hung back, and sure enough, she slammed her brakes again. At this point I'm down to about 45 in the passing lane, and I notice that the truck still isn't passing me. Whoever was driving it must have seen what was going on and hung back.
I was waiting for her to hit the brakes again, but instead she drifted over into the driving lane. I waited a bit to see if she had any other brilliant maneuvers in mind, such as maybe hitting her brakes in front of the truck to force it into my lane and me off the road or some other bullshit, but she just resumed driving as if nothing was wrong. After a few moments, I passed her, wondering if she was going to get right on my ass again, but she stayed in her lane, and that was the end of it.
I'm not sure what she was trying to accomplish with the aggressive and, frankly, dangerous stunt she pulled, but I must admit that the next time I'm on the Interstate and I notice that I'm more than twenty per hour over the speed limit, well... I'm still going to use the brakes to slow down. Call me a sentimental fool if you will, but I feel that's the way to go. And the hell with anyone that doesn't like it.
For the record, the car had New York plates reading ATT 2907. If you see her on the road, be careful. God only knows what she'll do if you do something as reckless and irresponsible as use your brakes in her presence, but whatever she does, it will probably endanger lives. Consider yourself warned.