Driving to Billingsgate (I curse too much)
July 9, 2010 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I curse when I drive. Terrible language and the most irritated inflection. It needs to stop because I am in danger of linguistically poisoning my toddler. Unfortunately, I live in an area (Metro Boston) where the roads are crowded and people pride themselves on driving like self-centered monsters. Please give me techniques to (most importantly) stop swearing and also stop appearing apoplectic.
posted by Mayor Curley to Human Relations (66 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sing to whatever's on the radio. Don't let yourself stop.
posted by Rendus at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2010

I really can't help you on the quitting the attitude front, but please please please find a replacement word for when you cuss. Traffic while my dad drove my brother and me to school in the mornings growing up is the main reason I know/use the word douchebag, and probably the only reason I know the word cocksucker. Believe me, being four years old and not understanding why you're in trouble for calling another kid a cocksucker is NOT FUN. For your kid's sake, find a replacement word to use in the meantime. Maybe if you make it something funny sounding, like, say, fluffernutter, it will lighten up your mood enough to be able to shake off the frustration better.

Hopefully others downthread will have more constructive solutions for the overall issue.
posted by phunniemee at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Start substituting your swears for less offensive terms when you aren't aggravated. They become habit and then you don't have to worry about it at the time. My sister's a nanny and now you cannot catch her saying 'shit'. She says 'sugar' every time, even when she's yelling. It's adorable, and the kids don't catch on.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2010

Best answer: The classic rubber band conditioning method: every time you enter the car, put a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you swear or express irritation in a way you think is bad for the kid, snap it hard enough to sting.
posted by griphus at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2010

try avoiding driving during rush hour. even schedule your work hours to avoid it. Here in the NYC area leaving 30 minutes after 5 or at 6 pm makes a HUGE difference in the traffic.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2010

In the same boat... When I noticed my 7-year-old son sometimes complaining about other drivers, I knew something had to change.

I think the two most important things to change your behaviour (ie, swearing, cussing, etc) would be to 1) give yourself more time to get to your destination and 2) drive defensively.

If you give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get where you are going, it removes that tipping point of stress that causes you to swear, etc., when encountering boneheaded maneuvers.

Giving yourself more time also allows you to slow down. Slowing down gives you more time to identify potential boneheaded maneuvers and deal with them.

Driving defensively is also helpful. I usually try to plot out my route, and I think of potential trouble spots (congested intersections, major merging points) and think of how I will handle them.

I try to observe the behaviour of cars in front of me and behind me, and then anticipate whatever boneheaded thing they will do.

But I think just giving myself an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get somewhere is also helpful.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I live in Metro Boston, too.

We use "BAD DRIVERS!!!!!" said very loudly. Not quite the fricative mouthfeel of a good swear word, but it gets the point across and even explains why Mama or Daddy is angry. Took a bit of adult retraining, but it's second nature now.

Now the older mini-marmot will say, "Oh Mama, bad drivers, huh?" very sympathetically.
posted by marmot at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2010 [16 favorites]

I was able to curb my cursing-while-driving with youngins in the car by only allowing myself to shout in rhyme, so I had to stop and think about what I was going to shout and rather than going with the standard four-letter words, I ended up just mumbling a bunch of goofy made-up words together like, "DRIVE YOU LIVE BRIVE KIVE SHIVE" which makes no sense, but helped me channel my frustration into inoffensive (nonsensical) language.
posted by banannafish at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want to control what you say, don't focus on words, focus on rhythm.

Talk slow.

In a past life running a community radio station, the best way to get profanity-laden 18-year-olds to stop swearing on-air -- which they were fuckin' used to fuckin' doing, because, shit, it's just part of regular fuckin' speech -- wasn't to tell them "don't swear," it was "talk at 66% of your normal speed."

Concentrate on speaking slowly (like pause-between-words slowly, not like Walkman-batteries-dying slowly) and you'll find, as if by magic, you'll stop cussing if you want to.
posted by Shepherd at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Start substituting your swears for less offensive terms when you aren't aggravated. They become habit and then you don't have to worry about it at the time. My sister's a nanny and now you cannot catch her saying 'shit'. She says 'sugar' every time, even when she's yelling. It's adorable, and the kids don't catch on.


I'm the same way in traffic. I did this. I have four kids. They learned some very creative ways to express their anger. ^_^ Not one of them got sent home for calling someone a slimy son of a dog, or a stubborn mule, or a scurvy knave... or for telling someone to kiss their left toe (I still use this one). Just pick what will get your anger out and go with it. I happened to like archaic expressions best.
posted by patheral at 11:48 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Imagine the other driver is your mother. I mean if it was and she made some dumb move, you'd go, "Oh, Mom's just not the best driver. Here, pull in in front of me." I'm not kidding. This works for me. (Of course, my mom is 92.) And if you think cursing in front of the toddlers while driving is hard, wait till they get older and ask why you're driving 35 mph when the signs say the limit is 25 and you have to decide whether you're going to obey all speed limits when they're with you or attempt to explain to them which rules they have to play by and which ones they can just ignore because they're inconvenient.
posted by lpsguy at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with what others have already said, but here's an alternative if you want it... Listen to audiobooks. Get so involved in a good story that you're not focused on other people's intelligence.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2010

Find some substitute curse words, perhaps? I was forced into this habit when I sat next to a Mormon at work and felt a little embarassed about my language (sorry, my fucking language). I get good mileage out of fracking, gorram, smegging smeghead, and zarking farkwads.

Hmmm, I may be a nerd. Does it show?

Or just a simple ayyy-yah!

Actually, it's probably almost as bad to refer to someone as a fracking idiot as a fucking idiot. Either one teaches that it's okay to call people idiots. Which it isn't. Unless they are driving while using a cell phone. Then it's fine.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:54 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find that sarcasm is effective to satiate my road rage.

"Nice one, GENIUS!" feels just as good as calling somebody an asshole.

Patronizing is another method I use. "Whoa, hoss, slow down there, now." "Hey there, buddy, I'm already in this lane, it won't fit the both of us." "There you go, honey."

So, if you don't mind your kid learning deprecating sarcasm and talking down to idiots in lieu of curse words, give that a try.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As an ex-car owning ex-Bostonite, I feel your pain. Driving was the only time I swore, and then it was basically an endless stream of fuckfuckFUCKINGFUCKfuck. Once I started using my mom's method of saying really passive-aggressive things to the other drivers out loud in my car (with the windows rolled up, of course), I started swearing less. Someone cuts you off, making you miss your exit? "Thanks so much! I really appreciate you making me take the long way home." Someone almost hits you? "That's just adorable!"

(Warning: may make your kids sarcastic)

Also, picturing yourself flipping someone off in your head feels pretty good, too.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2010

move out of boston? I lived there for a while and I know what you mean, it's hard to drive anywhere without getting frustrated. Maybe you could try different routes? Some roads (mass ave comes to mind) are much more rage-inducing than others. Or you could try meditation before driving. It might help you keep a cool head in traffic. Meditation will train your body to relax when you focus on your breath, and when you're in bad traffic you can cool off quickly by refocusing your mind on breathing. breeeaath in, breeeaath out.
posted by Bunge at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2010

Having a 2-year old that yells out "goddammit" whenever she gets near any steering wheels, toy or not, I feel your pain. To some extent, I think it's okay to explain to a child that some words are things that adults say and some are not. However, I agree that changing your behavior is probably the best option.

in our case, we're both trying to be more mindful of our word choices but know that it will be a while before we can totally eradicate cursing from our vocabularies. Keeping up a running dialogue with my daughter while I'm driving helps me to stay in a "kid-speak" frame of mind. The rubber band on the wrist is my next step.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

...scurvy knave

This is so the way to go.
posted by widdershins at 12:06 PM on July 9, 2010

I live in an area that is small enough that I have a fair chance of knowing the people who cut me off, or behave badly on the roads. So I imagine that each bad driver is one of my best friends, and they didn't realize what they just did. It works for me, most of the time.
posted by chookibing at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2010

The two tactics I use the most are curse word-switching and sarcasm -- I had a road ragey sarcasmfest with another mom at a traffic light once, which in retrospect was hilarious. (I can confirm that yes, this tactic makes your kid sarcastic.) I also try to blow kisses instead of giving the finger.

There's one other one my family uses...when either my daughter or I sense that the tension is getting too high, one of us will yell HULK SMASH! That leads into a discussion of what The Hulk would do if he was in the car with us, walking up the street himself, in that van over there, and it gets very silly very quickly. That, plus a few RAAARs for effect, goes a long way when nothing else works.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have a two year old in the backseat too. I love some of patheral's terms and may borrow them. Maybe this is too California for your taste, but I have trained myself to limit expressions of dismay while driving to saying "Dude!" in the appropriate tone. "Dude" is one of those words that can express a wide range of emotion just by how it's delivered.

Then when I hear my son parrot back "Dude!" from the backseat, I always feel I've dodged a bullet.
posted by ambrosia at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I try to use ridiculous, made-up swear words. "Stop tailgating me, you snarfooper!" This has the additional benefit of not adding to my rage, since the words are really silly. It's hard to say something like "snarfooper" (made up just now!) and stay furious or impatient.
posted by rtha at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2010

Make up stories in your head that explain their behavior. For example, imagine that the person driving like an idiot has his pregnant wife laying in the backseat and they're rushing to get to the hospital. Or maybe their grandmother just died and they're trying to get home to console their parents.

Suddenly, cursing at them will make you feel bad, and maybe you'll stop doing it.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Scream poetry.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Has the added benefit of making poetry sound slightly dangerous and forbidden to your kids, so they'll grow up sneaking Shakespeare sonnets and reading Herrick under the covers with a flashlight.
posted by QIbHom at 12:18 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say watch the body language and gestures too. When my sister was little she identified her middle finger as "Mommy's driving finger."
posted by tetralix at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

For things like this, it's not just the words that children pick up, but a constant state of irritation and anger. These kinds of things can be learned, as well, which will model for your children that they also should be angry when they drive.

I think that ultimately, you need to figure out how to deal with anger. You say this: "people pride themselves on driving like self-centered monsters." I suspect that this perception of the situation is providing a feeling of justification for you, that it's okay to be angry, because people are jerks.

My guess is that not as many people are the self-centered monsters that you think they are. Some people are just bad drivers, and some unintentionally, as they don't handle heavy traffic well; and sometimes, people feel that they need to drive more assertively, because a lot of passive drivers doesn't get anyone anywhere. It's like when a few people stop at a stop sign, and time gets wasted while everyone tries to be polite and wave everyone else through first. At some point, you just have to take that spot on the road.

But this doesn't mean that people aren't nice sometimes. The way that I've learned to deal with situations like this (albeit imperfectly) is to remind myself of this: if someone is acting inappropriately, it's more a deficiency in themselves that it is an actual statement about my worthiness. My guess is that a lot of anger on the road is a translated through the feeling of disrespect that is felt when getting cut off or whatever. When I learned to interpret things as a) not necessarily being about disrespect, as I can't read everyone's motives accurately; and b) even if it is, it's more their issue than it is mine, I found that I've been able to respond to people much better in life and to redirect some of that anger towards a benefit of the doubt, or pity.

Because in the end, anger is about what eats us up inside, more than how it gets expressed externally. Wouldn't you rather just not be angry than trying to figure out how to mask it? It'll kill two birds with one stone.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

I struggle with this too, but I don't have kids. On the other hand, I notice that I don't get as upset when I have a passenger in the car.

I wanted to point out though, that it's not really the words you are using, but the tone that is more troublesome. People pick up on the moods of others. For all your kid knows, you're yelling at him. To him, you're just yelling randomly, out of the blue. He doesn't know when to expect it. You're just suddenly yelling and he's powerless to stop it or get away from you. I imagine this could lead to some anxiety.

Maybe it would help if you tried to use more empathy with him. Try to think about how you would feel if someone just started yelling out of the blue and to you it felt like the person was yelling at you.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I "compliment" them on their "awesome" "driving."

"Oh boy, that is so great, the way you are driving ten miles an hour under the limit. Good for you!"

"Wow, you sure must be important, the way you just ran that red light and almost smashed into us. I sure am glad I didn't keep you from your appointment."

Also, as someone who used to drive in Boston for a living (computer field tech), the day I learned to calm down and just accept things as a fact of life is the day my stress levels decreased significantly. You can't really do anything about the amazing fuckwits we have on our roads, so just accept them. Riding a bike occasionally has also made me a better motorist.

It can also feel really good when you become a polite driver in a city full of assholes. Let people in occasionally, just don't slow traffic when you do so or you'll become one of the same people you're swearing at.
posted by bondcliff at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

God, Boston driving was the worst. I don't mean the drivers are bad, I mean becoming that kind of driver was corrosive. Fun, but corrosive. I think even Gandhi and the Dalai Lama would flip if they had to commute in Boston.

As a now ex-Boston driver, I think that a general ability to let things roll off you is the best long-term approach. Whether it's meditation, therapy, or something else, the key is to be able to let the behavior of others slide, rather than taking them personally. Suspend your disbelief and imagine that every single evil driver is trying to get to the hospital to see their dying kid. Some of them are. Sure, most are probably keen to get home and watch MMA or something, but some of them are dealing with crises. Assume that anyone around you could be in this spot, and it might be easier to accept how they drive.

Or, move to the San Francisco Bay Area. I came here straight from Boston, and I could not believe how polite and civil highway on-ramp merges are.
posted by zippy at 12:28 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to add that the above post wasn't meant to sound preachy or condescending, so I apologize if it does. Just something I've been working on in my own life.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2010

To me it sounds like your problem isn't what words you use, it's that you're very angry when you drive. Other people are thinking about themselves - that's the way they are. Or maybe they're just unskilled drivers. Being angry because of this takes away your peace, and also apparently affects your family negatively enough that it worries you. So stop it. The people in other cars don't have control over you. You have control over you.

It reminds me of this brilliant answer to a similar question:
Assume they have no free will. I'm not joking. They act according to their nature. If you trip and fall, you (presumably) don't get mad at gravity, for gravity simply acts according to its nature. If you're canoeing and an unexpected rush of water capsizes you, you don't get mad at the river, for the river simply acts according to its nature. The people you deal with simply act according to their nature. I don't know whether people actually have free will or not, but I find it much less stress-inducing if I assume they don't.
posted by fritley at 12:30 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

My go-to preliminary bellow of rage is "GODFUCKINGDAMMIT". When around wee kiddies, it is not terribly difficult for me to remember that once the "GAAH" sound is already out of my, to turn it into a crazed dinosaurian roar of madness, as in "GRRRAAAAAARRGGGGH". Plus, once you've done it a couple of times, you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of tiny delighted dinosaurs. It is entertaining enough to me that I tend to make dino noises more often than shouting obscenities when I find myself in the usual obscenity-shouting situations.

(Sometimes I also like to flail about with tiny grabby T-Rex arms, which is probably not a good idea to try while driving.)

I have no useful suggestions on how to not appear apoplectic, as I personally exist in a perpetual state of flaily outrage.
posted by elizardbits at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Slow down. I drive in Boston, too, and half the time (OK probably more than half) I scream obscenities and drive very aggressively. But when I take my time, leave everyone lots of room, let those people from the sidestreets pull in ahead of me, etc., it's a much more peaceful experience. When you're driving safely and slowly, making a point to be courteous to other drivers just for the hell of it, the stupid things other people do like cutting you off aren't as dangerous and they don't get you worked up as much -- you can laugh at them, or sometimes forgive them for making a mistake. I think I read the advice here on Metafilter to treat it as a cooperative exercise, not a competition - you're all trying to get places on the same roads. Try to work together, and even when someone is a shitty teammate you'll feel less angry at them.
posted by dreadpiratesully at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2010

What fritley said. You're getting mad because you tell yourself they SHOULD drive better. But you've been watching their driving for years -- you know that this is how they drive! Instead of getting mad about it, expect it.

Someone cuts you off. "Oh, there he goes."

Do you get mad at viruses for infecting you? It's what they do.
posted by callmejay at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2010

Also, this reminds me of a cherished story told by a good friend. They were in the same spot you were, cursing at bad drivers, until one day their four year old asked from the back seat, "Mommy, what's a dickwad?
posted by zippy at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2010

I too am from Boston, and I feel your pain. $14 billion for the Big Dig, and you still have to go through a stoplight to get from Storrow to 93N. This city was designed by monkeys.

I find that I get most irritated at the traffic if I'm in a hurry -- especially if I've neglected to remember that it takes at least 3 times longer to get anywhere during rush hour. If I anticipate that it's going to take me 45 minutes to get from Davis Square to Brookline at 5pm, and plan accordingly to leave with enough time, then I sort of resign myself to the fact that it's going to be slow and I don't get as angry about it. But if I'm running late, you can bet I'm spewing profanities at everyone who comes near me.

So along with the very good suggestions above to substitute your swear words, you can also try to be aware of your irritation level, and try to take a deep breath when you feel your chest tensing up. You're stuck there, and getting angry about it won't make you unstuck -- in fact it just makes you more angry. Maybe play a game like I Spy with your kid to take your mind off of how irritating it is. I don't have children but I do have a dog, and when I'm stuck in traffic with him I pet him and say silly things to him, and it helps me not focus on the fact that it's taken me 15 minutes to get through one block of Western Ave. Taking your mind off of it will make you less likely to want to curse in the first place.
posted by roscopcoletrane at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2010

I agree with some of the answers above that it's the tone and not necessarily the words. I only remember my father swearing a few times, but I remember him getting angry A LOT, and he didn't make up nonsense/substitute words either. It was a seething, growling frustration that I could just sense. If you have trouble keeping yourself from cursing, you have an anger problem, not a swearing problem, and I guarantee you that it will show up in other instances over which you have no control.

I can't imagine that Chicago traffic is that much better than Boston traffic, so I do empathize. It's scary out there, and I have been the victim of a hit and run on the tollway. However, I try to remember the times that I've cut someone off or sped past them, mostly because I've misjudged a distance or underestimated my speed. It's highly improbable that you don't make driving mistakes ever, and since you're only likely to see that particular bad driver once, you can't conclude that they are always a jerk. He or she fucked up. We all do. Even if you feel "relief" after yelling at the driver, you know intellectually it doesn't do any good (they almost never hear you, and if they do you're putting yourself in danger). In fact it creates more emotional harm than the other driver did, unless they actually hit you.
posted by desjardins at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am going to third being less angry in the car. That's time you're spending angry and stressed about things you can do nothing about. That's silly. Let it go, assume no malicious intent on the part of other drivers, and gain an enormous amount of not-negative time every day.

As one of those empathetic people who absorb other people's emotions, it's incredibly stressful to just be in a car with someone who gets worked up over driving. I cannot imagine what that would be like for a kid, being trapped in a box with a parent who is angry and shouting for no reason he can understand.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2010

I second chrisamiller's suggestion. Work on developing your sense of empathy. While your kids may not learn "bad" words if you substitute swear words, they will understand that you're angry and kids aren't always good at knowing where that anger is directed. If you spend time with them in the morning when you're dropping them off and then not again until after work, it may seem like "Dad is angry most/half of the time he sees me" from their point of view.

So try to imagine situations when doing what the other driver has done would be considered understandable or even permissible. Maybe their best friend just died. Maybe their driving their baby around for the first time. Maybe they just made a dumb mistake. Think of all the times you've made a driving mistake and try to be humble. Take a deep breath and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. You'll spend less time angry and your kid will have better memories of dad taking him to school.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 12:52 PM on July 9, 2010

Oh man, I am so you, as I'm in the middle of this struggle myself.

The thing that worked the best for me is slowing down.
By which I mean, if I know going somewhere takes 10 minutes, I give myself 20. If it takes 20, I give myself 30, etc.

I know it sounds completely clich├ęd, but it really does work.

You just don't feel as upset when you don't make the light because the guy in front of you can't seem to make a left turn.
You're more willing to give someone space to merge, and less likely to be upset when they "merge" into your lane when you're still using it.

Less harried equals less stress equals less swearing.
posted by madajb at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2010

Also, another thing to remember is that no one follows the rules in Boston because if you follow the rules you'll never get anywhere. Especially because there are several intersections where there are at least 3 options for how to get through: option #1 is to follow the actual lines that are currently painted on the road; option #2 is to drive however seems most logical to the driver because the lines on the road are totally ambiguous and/or actively unhelpful; then there's secret option #3, which is to drive the way the lines USED to be painted at this intersection, because that's how I learned how to get through this light and screw you buddy if you don't know that!! YAAAAHHH GO SOX

So occasionally you can laugh at how poorly designed our roads are, and remember that everyone is looking out for themselves and they're gonna go how they're gonna go and ain't nothing you an do about it. If you expect everyone to drive safely and politely in this city, you're going to give yourself a heart attack.

Now, if someone could just give me suggestions for how not to blow my lid when I hit a pothole, I would appreciate it.
posted by roscopcoletrane at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if this helps you at all, but funny enough, today I decided to just... not drive. I live near public transportation, and work somewhat near PT, and on Friday nights in the summer, I just CANNOT deal with the people who take the Holland Tunnel into New York. Instead of driving, I left extra-early this morning and took the train. It might take a little longer, but it will do wonders for my mood, not only during the commute, but for the hour after, in which I'd normally be a big crab.

Otherwise, I'm a big proponent of the sarcasm. At the very least, your kids will learn irony sooner than their peers... right?
posted by inmediasres at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just about all drivers in all cities are not driving the "proper" way and you are one of the few who is. But then how many of those terrible drivers have the rage you need to express when you are behind a wheel? Are you this wayh when not driving? Why? Why not? Why is it onlyh in the car? Of if not onlyh in the car, what good has it done you, in looking back on your repeated rage?
posted by Postroad at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2010

I grew up and learned to drive in MA, and as a young man had some issues with road ragey type things. Mainly dealing with summer Cape Cod traffic. But eventually, I got over it. I'm a very calm driver now, and find that the really absurd driving that is common and expected in MA has set my bar for getting upset so high that I can drive anywhere else in the world, no problem. The infamously crazy Italian drivers? No problem. German autobahns? It is to laugh. Truly, Massachusetts drivers are the most frightening on earth.

So I don't have much in the way of advice for getting over the road rage, other than just don't be so angry. But I can say that if you master a zen-like calm when negotiating Boston roads, you, sir, are ready for anything. Look forward to your ultimate reward.
posted by rusty at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an ex-Boston driver, and also get frustrated. I tried to explain that my 4 year old said "fuck" in preschool because sometimes we watched the Sopranos right after we put him to bed, but I don't think the teacher believed me ;)

I try to avoid swearing or getting angry at other drivers when the kids are in the car, but when I do, I then explain to them that I shouldn't have done that, and that ALL of us sometimes get angry at things when we get upset and what would be a better way to handle it? This may sound like overkill, but we have talks like that when my (now) 7-year old has pushed someone/screamed/made a bad choice, so it seems like we should when I do too.
posted by Sukey Says at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Substitute swear words in other languages. Or swear British style ("those bloody drivers!"). Or use sci-fi words like frak and frell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2010

I don't think the language will be the problem. I think the atmosphere of getting angry quick and not being cool, calm and patient will be what will have the worst effect on a kid.
posted by anniecat at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2010

As someone who mostly bikes in Boston, but sometimes drives, I use lighthearted sarcasm ("Turn signals - beautiful things, you should try one sometime!") or more heavy-handed sarcasm when things get Dangerous. I resort to repeating "I am a buddha behind the wheel" when things get really hairy. It makes me giggle, and tends to take me out of the GRAR SMASH mode, which as others have noted, helps the whole car feel better.
posted by ldthomps at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, the thing that makes the biggest differece is acknowledging and accepting that the stressful situation is going to be stressful. Which sounds hokey but if I'm getting in the car and say "Right, there's going to be traffic, getting on the 401 is going to be backed up, I'm going to get cut off at least twice, we're going to run 20 minutes late and daycare dropoff is going to be rushed and tearful" then I get a lot less angry when things go the way I, well, know they are going to go.

Part of what's infuriating is that getting cut off isn't supposed to happen, so you react to it with anger every time. But you can't contro other people's actions, only your reaction to them. If you accept at the outset that things you don't like are going to happen, it can help you to change your response when it does.

I try to help my husband with this too. Banking in Ireland is 12 times more dumb than it should be but I can't help that or change it for him. But I can remind him when he goes down to do X that he isn't going to be able to do X when he gets there for whatever stupid and variable reason, and that this task will need two more very annoying trips.

It does actually help.

posted by DarlingBri at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The "pretend the drivers are your neighbors / grandmother" answers aren't getting a whole lotta favorites above, but in my view, they really are the best approach. After driving behind my grandfather and uh cutting someone off that then was at the next meeting I was attending I now try to realize that actually, I might know a lot of the people on the road, and even if I don't know and love and have patience for them, someone else does, and one day I might. To me, it's the frustrated, angry drivers who now look like the uh, snarfoopers, and not the people who merge too slowly.
posted by salvia at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2010

Changing your mentality: Try to think that there is a chance that the person who cut you off had a good reason for their action, maybe they are late for a job and might get fired if they're late again. Maybe they're late to pick their kid up from school. Justify their haste, instead of getting angry.

Changing your words: I'm fond of "fudge" and "fudgesickles" (though you shouldn't draw it out, because adults will assume "fuuuuu-" will end with "-ck" not "-dgesicles" and might take offense). Other alternatives: "crikey" or "cripes" and "oh bother" (like Winnie the Pooh, and it might help to imagine his voice and mood while saying it).

Distract yourself from the annoyances: Calm down with deep breathing. Focus on your breath instead of the annoyances around you (without forgetting the world all-together). Or you can talk to your toddler, even if the little one doesn't reply yet. Describe the world around you, or share your thoughts.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:39 PM on July 9, 2010

Ironically, I don't get angry at the "bad" drivers -- that is, the ones who understand The System of organized chaos and violate whatever laws are necessary to keep moving. I get mad at two groups: those who obey the laws to a fault (really? are you REALLY going 35 mph on Mem Drive?) and the out-of-towners (who inevitably go the wrong way on some part of Charles Circle near where I live).

And seriously, thinking of my grandparents -- especially with the slow drivers -- or my parents, as I've experienced their frustration and panic as out-of-towners trying to drive here -- does help to some degree.

Only to some degree, though.
posted by olinerd at 2:53 PM on July 9, 2010

It's an anecdote, not a solution, but my daughter's dad stopped swearing in the car completely when a sweet almost-two-year-old voice from the back seat swore at a car that cut him off on the way to daycare.
posted by thatdawnperson at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2010

When I lived in Boston, I tried to cultivate a habit of laughing and waving at the rude drivers, while consciously shifting away from a "F@#$%^&*/!!!" mindset and towards being glad that I was me (not a rude driver, at least not in that moment) and not them.

Now I'm in a laid back part of California, but some Boston driving habits are hard to shake. Like lightning-quick stops and starts, jumping forward if another driver hesitates or takes too damned long to get into the car-length gap I'd left for them, and stepping on the gas when I see a yellow light. Even knowing the other drivers can't hear me, it makes me feel better to acknowledge out loud "Oh geez I'm driving like an asshole, sorry people."

I also think of the passage from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens where the demon Crowley describes his modernized, scaled-up method of acquiring souls for Hell: he was responsible for the design of some major highway around London (the M4?). Every soul getting frustrated in that traffic took out their frustration on other drivers, and on their families when they arrived home, and so multitudes of souls acquired, every day, "a faint patina" of more tarnish...

Can't help but relax in traffic, remembering that. And his alienation from old-school demons, with their artisans' pride in their craftwork, spending ten years corrupting the soul of a single priest! and who couldn't understand how Crowley's messing around with highways served their Cause. Heh.

Anybody got a copy handy to quote that section? Mine's in storage.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:28 PM on July 9, 2010

Read the book Drive To Survive, lots of the comments here revolve about being more relaxed and aware of your surroundings. This book will teach you some techniques to learn these things quickly as well as a bunch of other useful stuff.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:14 PM on July 9, 2010

My goodness, what a lot of law-abiding citizens are on the road today!

When I asked a similar question, I received a number of helpful answers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:35 PM on July 9, 2010

I have found listening to the classical music radio station is calming for me. Now I find driving across town quite relaxing - and yes, all my worst swearing was in the car.

I think partly it is because longer classical music pieces don't give me so much of a sense of how much time has passed. If you listen to regular music, you know that every new song is another 3.5 minutes you have been in horrible traffic. If it is talk radio, they are always announcing the time or talking about things that make me want to yell at them. Or it is depressing news. Some classical music is also calming in itself.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I go for heavy sarcasm in lieu of swearing ("O RLY?" "Niiiiiiiice.") when the kiddo is in the car.

It's also important to think about how fast you're driving too. I realized this when I was playing a little game when he was two.

me: Red means...
him: Stop!
me: Green meeans...
him: Go!
me: Yellow means...
him: Faster!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:58 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leave early and listen to NPR. (WBUR 90.9 FM, or the new PBS station.)
posted by pants tent at 6:40 PM on July 9, 2010

Some great comments here and I note that I found Boston an extremely difficult city to navigate. Here's some stuff that helps me:

In Los Angeles, people drive very selfishly and dangerously. I bought a very heavy car, leave extra time for my commute, try to choose the best conditions for driving to minimize the pain.

Then, while in the car, I note that the driver will only be in my life for a few moments, and it's not worth it to allow them to impact my mood for the day. If they are especially bad, I say, "Bye bye!" as they exit, or "Glad I didn't marry you, chump", "that guy's going to be on the evening news....". But mostly I try to keep some good music going or think of my artwork. When I feel the frustration rising, I try to step away from the feeling, because it will not allow me to drive at my most aware and that's really what's in your best interest actually. Keep reminding yourself how very much a collision will slow things down, and you'll have some bizarre bond through court with some bad driver.

I get frustrated and choose not to ever swear in front of my students. My favorite line is to say "FILTHY SWEAR WORDS!" Most students find it hilarious that I refer to them without saying them. It's really the excressence that's cathartic, not the actual words, so it gives them something to consider.
posted by effluvia at 7:51 PM on July 9, 2010

I drive a lot. Step one is to avoid bad situations. There is almost always a better route. If there isn't a better route, you are taking the best route. Step two is to lighten up. Step three is to get zen with the road. Learn to see what other people are doing and hedge your own lane choices to avoid them.

I also enjoy signaling at people when they fail to use their signals. "No problem, let me get that for you."
posted by gjc at 8:05 PM on July 9, 2010

My dad once drove over the railroad tracks and said "Goddamn it!" when it was bumpy.

I said goddamn it every time we went over tracks, until my dad then started saying "Chicago and Northwestern" every time going over the tracks until I said that.

So the key is to get a mantra that sounds good for your kid and say it over and over again.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 PM on July 9, 2010

really? are you REALLY going 35 mph on Mem Drive?

Yep, sometimes. Know why? Because being the slow car is super-easy. You don't have to slam on the brakes or change lanes to get around the slowpoke and be frustrated that someone's in some other lane is going faster... they all are. And that's ok. All you have to do is get your zen on, put some happy music on the radio, and stay between the white lines.

I don't always do that, but when I start getting spun up on the road, I just go back to speed-limit driving. Ahh, peaceful. All the other angry people around can suck it.
posted by ctmf at 11:47 PM on July 10, 2010

note: I don't actually live in Boston. Seattleites, that's me in the slow lane.
posted by ctmf at 11:48 PM on July 10, 2010

Watch Johnny Dangerously. Use Moronie's fargin swear words on those bastages instead.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:27 AM on July 12, 2010

A friend of mine would get so worked up about driving, especially in Boston, that being in the car with her would stress me out. I realized that she didn't seem to be able to anticipate other drivers' actions. If, say, a car ahead slowed down then of course the car directly in front of her would slow down, too. She would always end up slamming on her brakes and swearing. Pothole in the road? Drivers are going to swerve around it. Bus? Yup, frequent stopping with or without pulling over. On the highway? Lane changes, merging, tailgating. Each of these were treated as totally unexpected and personally offensive to her.

I like driving, and I drive in/around Boston frequently. I get annoyed when someone does something potentially dangerous, but anything else is just par for the course. And I generally find that a great many of the incidents that make me angry are ones in which I clearly wasn't paying enough attention.
posted by noxetlux at 8:50 AM on July 14, 2010

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