Newport Manners + Etiquette: Handling Road Rage + More
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Last weekend, I was cut off by an aggressive driver. I got so pissed off because we were on the highway on a four-hour drive with our toddler asleep in the carseat in back. This guy was weaving in and out of traffic, driving like a maniac. Traffic slowed down, he must have gotten off and then gotten back on the highway. Suddenly we were in gridlock and he tailgated me for a couple of miles. When he passed us, he gave us the finger. In gridlock again, there he was. I wanted to get out and tell him off but my wife begged me not to. How to you handle someone who is out of control with road rage? J.W., Manhattan
Instead of getting out of the car, report the driver. Call 911 or whatever is the number in your state, to connect you with the police or state troopers. Quickly google the number and report the color and make of the car as well as the license plate. It will make you feel better to report the road-rager.
Even though road-raging isn't a crime in most counties, there are traffic violations that fall under the criminal category. People use the terms "road rage" and "aggressive driving" interchangeably but this dangerous phenomenon can happen to anyone—both victims and perpetrators. Be aware of your own emotions and make the right choices, even when you're tempted to act out. Don't. ~Didi
How do you seat people when you go out to dinner with another couple? My in-laws are sticklers for this kind of stuff, but since this is the first time we're taking them out to an upscale restaurant for their anniversary, I need to know the drill. A.S., Boston
Seating depends on three factors. The shape of the table, the gender and relationship of the guests. For instance, when seating four people consisting of two heterosexual couples, you would not seat the men directly across from each other, nor—obviously—the two women directly across from each other. You would seat them side by side. Why? Because otherwise the two women would be talking across the conversation of the two men and visa versa. Side by side, they can talk as easily to both the person on their left and the person on their right. You assume couples talk to each other all the time and talking mainly to the other couple makes the evening more fun, which is why you wouldn't deliberately seat them side by side.
The standard for seating two couples: the men sit to the left of their partner. At a square or round table for four, you would sit across from your wife. Nevertheless, in a banquette for four—because the table is narrower—you could sit across from your wife and next to your mother-in-law or next to your wife and across from your mother-in-law. ~Didi
My husband is a rage-a-holic! He'll say, "We all need to sit down, there's something we need to discuss." We sit down with our two teenagers (one from my first marriage) and he tells us why "we" all need to talk. Then he rages on, not interested in what anyone has to say, especially if they don't agree with him. Nobody can get a word in edgewise. Only until the end of his tirade does he ask us what we think. He assumes I'm going to back whatever he says, even when he knows I don't agree. He thinks conducting these meetings makes the family stronger. I've told him his raging is abusive. The kids roll their eyes and I know they aren't even listening. It's always about money. He knew what he was getting into before we married. I fear my son is becoming a rage-a-holic like him. What do I do? E.H., Providence
As I am not a psychologist, I'm steering you in another direction. You should talk to a specialist in the field of anger disorder. First, I want you to do your preliminary research. Look up 'bitterness' and you'll find it's a chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment. Because bitterness is one of the more toxic and destructive emotions, it's labeled as a mental disorder—an anger disorder. Or as it's recently been defined by the American Psychiatric Association—Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. It is also known as Anger Possession Syndrome. The colloquial word is rage-a-holic. In other words, someone who harbors deep resentment, bitterness, anger and rage—and won't let go of it.
This is a problem for you and your children, but it is his battle to conquer. If you have to, go into couple's therapy and the subject of him being a rageaholic will raise its ugly head. When that happens—because its roots go so very far back—he is on his own to find help for his antisocial behavior. ~Didi
A close personal friend recently passed away. He was divorced with three grown children and for the past four years was living with his girlfriend. They actually purchased a house together and he wanted to start a new life. At the wake his ex-wife stood on the receiving line with her three sons and their families while his girlfriend and her children could only mingle—not out of choice. My friend's girlfriend was his primary caretaker during his illness. My friend's ex-wife has obvious hate for the girlfriend and blames her for the breakup of the marriage. Was it proper etiquette for the ex-wife only to be in the receiving line or should his girlfriend been offered the option to be part of it. L.L., Stonington, CT
Live and learn. This detail should have been taken care of during the illness. But who in that situation thinks ahead when clinging to life? The executor of the estate dictates who does what -- according to the deceased's instructions.
What you have to remember is that in this case it is all about the children—and their children. Empathy, compassion and consideration are important when looking at the big picture. Sadly, during the hectic wake, funeral and burial process things get arranged too quickly and if there isn't someone in charge to make sure that the deceased's wishes aren't carried out, unhappy situations such as this happen.
One would think it would make sense that one of your friend's adult children had the good manners and sense to invite the girlfriend—the caregiver and their father's partner in death—to stand in the receiving line out of respect for their father's wishes.
It is always difficult to lose a close personal friend. My best advice at this point, is for you to continue to support your close friend's partner as a friend. ~Didi
We like hearing from you at NewportManners.com and we use your question, we're happy to post it anonymously. Your important questions help to make other readers make better choices. Didi researches contemporary etiquette and manners at NewportManners.com. Or you can ask them on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or on Twitter. Earlier GoLocalProv columns are listed below or can be accessed with a search.
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