Foreclosure Sparks Road Rage

01Oct09

At the dawn of the foreclosure crisis/global meltdown, I speculated that we would see 3 things increase:

1. Layaway
2. Customer Service Quality
3. Road Rage

As of this week, I would say I’m 3 for 3.  K-Mart’s offering layaway, surly servers have taken a hike (I got a call from VisionWorks the other day, just to see how my glasses were doing and to let me know they had a special going on. That’s a first!) and, in my neck of the woods (Tyrone/Beaches area of Pinellas County, Florida), I have witnessed 3 “Road Rage” incidents in less than two weeks:

The first was in the parking lot of Big Lots in St Petersburg.   When a female shopper returned to her car, a shopping cart blocked her access, so she pushed it out of the way. Before she could get in the car, a male shopper returning to his vehicle started yelling at her, accusing her of hitting his truck with the cart. And I mean YELLING. And threatening to run her over with his truck.

The second incident took place in the parking lot of the produce store located in the Wal-Mart parking lot at 38th Avenue and Tyrone.  This section of the lot is frequently jammed, partly because of the narrow layout and partly because this is a fantastic, fresh, friendly (but that’s a whole new blog, so I’ll leave it at that) produce store.  Two cars pull out of their parking spaces at the same time, so traffic going either way has to stop.  A shopper in a big Dodge Ram truck started to back out as well, and he didn’t see the 2-seater BMW perpendicular to his bumper. To be fair, the Beemer Lady must have been in la la land. How could she miss the guy’s backup lights? She should have given a warning tap on the horn. She launches out of the car, screeching & screaming up to Big Scary Truck Guy, who gives as good as he’s getting.

The last incident took place just over the Causeway into Madeira Beach.  Friday nights are pretty slow on the beach by 9pm, so I sailed over the bridge, expecting empty streets ahead. Instead, traffic was jammed all the way to Madeira Way. I saw people out of their cars, a couple of vehicles halfway up on the curb, halfway in the street, but no lights or sirens.  Apparently, someone had Road Rage, didn’t like the way folks were driving, and drove down the center line between lanes, plowing people out of his way as he went.

I thought I was going to encounter a fourth incident, but was surprised.  I was in Winn Dixie’s checkout lane when I heard a woman yelling at a man leaving the store. When she started running after him, my stomach knotted up as I braced myself to witness an uncomfortable scene.  I’m imagining all kinds of scenarios:  he’s her husband, they had a row, he stalked off, she’s trying to get the last word in, or they’re strangers, he butted in line or crashed her with his cart… Turns out, it was nothing like that. He didn’t notice a $20 bill fall out of his pocket.  She picked it up off the floor and was returning it to him.  You should have seen his expression.  Surprise? Gratitude? Doesn’t quite cover it. Awe. That’s the best word for what I saw on his face and the faces of everyone witnessing this. 

Zora Neale Hurston wrote about “using the broom of anger to sweep away the beast of fear”. That’s exactly what’s going on here.  Terror born of stress.  This all fits what I’m seeing in my dealings with homeowners that are behind on their mortgage payments. These folks have always paid their bills and never imagined they’d ever face foreclosure.  Their stress is colossal & eventually erupts. But underneath, most people are basically good, or they want to be.

Jennie Blackburn

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