I feel I’ve got to know someone really well in recent months, although we have never actually met face to face.
Mercifully, I am not talking about those pointless never-ending chats with unlikely “friends” on social media which speak volumes, but say little worthwhile.
No, the only contact with my new-found “friend” is via my rearview mirror. Our paths often cross at the same time in the morning just after I leave my house. In a flash she is behind me in her car, filling my rear mirror.
I am tailgated furiously with no respite, with what seems like only a few inches to spare, for the next half a mile until our paths diverge at a roundabout by the former Woolmanhill hospital in Aberdeen.
And I thought it was only bone-headed testosterone-laden males who indulged in this type of behaviour.
The other driver “swarms” all over the back of my car. First this way and then that, feinting to one side as though she is going to overtake and then pretending to undertake.
This never actually happens because we are on busy narrow roads where even a lunatic boy racer would have second thoughts. What’s going on? It’s Christmas and I want to stay alive.
Am I targeted because she doesn’t like the flat cap I wear when driving? I must admit that I had an aversion to flat-cap drivers myself until I reached an age when it seemed obligatory to sport one.
I always felt cap-wearing while driving automatically slowed down male drivers by about 20mph, but I don’t think annoying and unnecessary snail’s-pace driving is at play here – I hover around the speed limit on these tight roads.
I should ignore it and let her tie herself in knots of frustration, but it’s annoying that I am allowing myself to be stressed.
This nonsense has been happening for some time off and on. She has tailgated so close I’m sure DNA from my car boot has taken up permanent residence on her bonnet’s paintwork.
Maybe I’m paranoid, but I was starting to think I was the victim of a campaign of harassment. Maybe she hates my columns.
But the other day I’m sure I spotted the same car ahead of me and doing the same thing to someone else.
It seemed to be a similar pattern of behaviour and the aggressor tried to overtake her “victim” on a pedestrian crossing of all things, but was forced to brake hard to avoid ramming another car pulling out of a side road. But for the grace of God, emergency services could have been cleaning up a three-car crash scene.
Those in the know say many of us lose all reason when we get behind the wheel and become despotic masters of our space, thinking we “own” our stretch of road – like tinpot dictators bullying the neighbours on their borders.
I have another theory that people simply try to act out their favourite action film or video game while driving and this might be the only thing which lights up an otherwise dull and boring existence.
In retaliation, I dream of being Max Rockatansky (played by Tom Hardy) in action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road. I imagine driving my tormentor off the road into a small ravine – which I selected as the perfect spot, beside Denburn municipal car park – or puncturing her tyres with flaming flailing spike-studded steel balls on my wheels.
However, road safety experts advise that we should just pull over and let tailgaters pass to avoid a high crash risk – about 100 people are killed in tailgating incidents every year.
So, don’t seek vengeance, but “turn the other cheek” as Jesus himself suggested. Be the bigger person. Yes, but I am a mere mortal and it’s not as satisfying as taking Rockatansky’s revenge.
As it’s Christmas some of us might reflect on the story of Jesus, although it could be a fleeting thought for many who only worship at the feet of retail gods.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount exhorted us to “turn the other cheek”, but he also extolled the virtues of taking “an eye for an eye”. These two actions are not compatible, are they?
Just before his death, Jesus refused to turn the other cheek and gave profiteering money-changers and merchants of his day the “eye for an eye” treatment with a good thrashing over their shenanigans. Brandishing an improvised whip, he threw them out of the temple. Painter El Greco brought the anger and violence alive vividly in various depictions of this famous Biblical event.
But common sense suggests that Jesus only meant that legal punishment should fit the crime whenever necessary, but spontaneous outbursts of vengeance were not always necessary in response to everyday human misdemeanors. A lesson for road-ragers here?
Oddly, these Biblical references made me draw comparisons with Max Rockatansky’s struggle in a broken, horribly violent world.
I am not suggesting for a moment that Max Rockatansky might be a reincarnation of Jesus.
But the underlying theme of this multiple award-winning film was that trying to survive in a dangerous world while showing humanity to others was not only compatible, but also essential to a life worth living.
It’s also a parable worth remembering as you drive to work with annihilation or world domination on your mind.