Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton Moskowitz
"You could have been killed."
His tone was even as we walked past the Mukilteo Lighthouse toward the beach. He wasn't accusing or reprimanding, just stating a fact. His comment heightened my own realization of how dangerous the encounter had been.
The King of Rational Thought and I had been talking about human action; why people behave as they do. "You have two things," he had said, "your intellect and your emotions. The big question is: which one do you use to make your decisions?"
To my surprise, he had added, "Most people operate from their emotions."
At first, I hadn't bought it. But then I had remembered The Incident.
My friend Pete and his pregnant wife were driving along Highway 410 to Yakima. I was along for the ride.
A few miles outside of Cliffdell, Pete decided to pass the car in front of us. He waited for a straight stretch on the two-lane highway, pulled out into the left lane, and sped up to pass.
The other car sped up too.
Pete sped up even more. So did the other car.
By the time Pete reached 75 miles an hour, it was clear that the other car was not going to let him by. Pete slowed back down and pulled in behind the other driver.
Pete didn't seem angry. But he was troubled. Why would someone purposely risk another person's life for no apparent reason? He decided to find out.
The car ahead of us pulled into a driveway about ten minutes later. Pete pulled off to the side of the road, calmly got out, and walked toward the other car.
Before Pete even got close, the driver jumped out and started swearing at him. "You #@%$ &#$%@! What do you think you were doing?!! You were climbing all over my tail!!!"
Another man got out of the passenger side of the car, moved to within inches of Pete, and said menacingly, "Get back in your car and get out of here."
Pete stayed calm. "I wanted to know," he said quietly, "why you tried to kill me back there."
"You were tailgating me for miles," the other driver responded angrily. "You made me so mad it was the only thing I could do."
I could hardly believe my ears. I'd just heard a rationale for vehicular homicide.
"Get back in your car and get out of here," the other man repeated. He was obviously spoiling for a fight.
After trying to reason with both men, Pete finally realized the situation was deteriorating. He gave it up and walked away.
"Next time we'll run you off the road!" the passenger shouted as Pete got back into our car.
"It's a classic case," said the King of Rational Thought after I had finished telling him the story. "Emotions lead. Head and body follow."
"Do you think Pete did the right thing?" I asked.
He smiled. "If people are coming from their emotions, and you try to beat them with an intellectual argument, do you think they'll suddenly abandon their emotions and admit, 'yes, I'm wrong'?"
I realized it sounded rather foolish when he put it that way. "So what should Pete have done?"
"Either let it go or called 911," he replied. "As it was, he took on a losing situation and put you, his wife, and an unborn child in needless jeopardy."
I didn't say any more. I knew him to be an insightful man.
And I was hoping he hadn't guessed that Pete was me.