Communications breakdown on the road

What we’ve got here, is a failure to communicate – with warmth and / or civility, anyway.

And, at the risk of completely ripping off the warden’s character (and later, the lead) in the 1967 classic “Cool Hand Luke,” me thinks we really, really do.

This became apparent as my family sat around my sister’s family room not long ago and not a single one of us was interacting with any other because we were all either: working on our laptops, playing “Words With Friends” online, dealing into a virtual hand of poker, e-touring potential winter homes or texting our girlfriends (another column to come on that one soon; stand by).

That’s when it occurred to both my sister and me that we are living in the midst of what Led Zeppelin used to call a “Communication Breakdown.”

And it’s a little disheartening for this self-proclaimed words girl. Old Patty can be quite chatty, ask around.

So, when I see folks opting out of personal communication, I get a little sad because, and I mean this truly, I like people.

Not only do I immensely enjoy and even delight in spending time with family and friends, but I also like engaging in pleasant chatter with acquaintances and even strangers. In fact, I’m quite fond of humans – in general – and believe in their innate goodness and kindness.

Which may, indeed, be my own undoing. Case in point? The human who chased me down, literally, in traffic about a week ago.

It was a dark and stormy night – seriously – it was after 7 p.m. in late February in the Valley; it might as well have been midnight. And to boot, it was raining quite steadily. Very horror-movie setting-esque. Ergo, as Kyle and I made our way down busy U.S. Route 422, I took care to reduce my speed.

A maneuver of which the gentleman (and I’m being very generous) in the SUV behind me did not approve.

Immediately, I had the wattage equivalent to the brightness of the sun reflecting off my rear and side-view mirrors and, though I was temporarily blinded, I do believe I could also make out the silhouette of one very prominently displayed finger waving wildly at me from said “gentleman.”


Well, needless to say, I slowed down even more dramatically, given that I could no longer see the road in front of me. Very methodically, I tried to ease into another lane as quickly as possible. I was cautious not to say what I was really thinking, lest I?become a poster child for road rage to my teenage son.

But, he was about to witness it anyway as I discovered upon pulling into a parking space at a local gym since I was being blocked in from behind by Grumpy Grumperson who’d tailed me there. I very calmly told Kyle to stay in the car with the doors locked and tried to sound nonchalant as I quietly added, “If it seems to be headed south, dial 911 “

I proceeded to Grumpy’s car, and the communication that ensued made me rethink the whole “yearning for personal contact” of earlier mention.

Now, in the interest of keeping this column G-rated, I will substitute some of the actual words, a.k.a. profanity, used by Grumpy. For instance, in place of the aggressive adjective he repeated, I will use the word “sweet” and for the nasty noun, I will say, um “kitten.”

“You SWEET KITTEN! Why don’t you learn how to SWEET drive you SWEET, LITTLE KITTEN!” grumbled Grumpy.

Right, I forgot about some of his additional expletives, so I tossed in a “LITTLE.”

“I will thank you not to speak that way in front of my son” said I.

“I don’t give a SWEET about you and your SWEET son, you SWEET, LITTLE KITTEN!” he screamed.

“Sir, I believe your anger is making you a menace behind the wheel. Perhaps you should see someone about that?” I offered.

“SWEET you, you SWEET, LITTLE, WONDERFUL KITTEN!” he yelled as he tore out of the parking lot.

Hmm. Did I say I wanted more talking? I stand corrected. Silence is good.

Oh, and to the gentleman with what my son called such a short (not to mention unimaginative) vocabulary, I have only one thing to say: I have your license plate number, you sweet little puppy, you.

Kimerer is Tribune Chronicle columnist and eternal liker of people … well, most of ’em. Contact her about your encounters with scary humans at