I’ve been doing the math and by my calculation there are 4,234,194 drivers in the United States that still don’t know you can turn right on red. This actually comes as no surprise to me, even though it’s been legal in all fifty states and the District of Columbia since 1980. The fact is, there are a lot of pretty clueless folks out there.

I used to lose it whenever I got behind one of these rubes. My blood would boil until my ears would start to burn. I’d wait a few seconds and give them a honk. If, after five seconds longer there was no movement, I’d ram their back end and try to push them off the road.

Ok, I didn’t ram them. Well, maybe just a tap. Then I’d rudely speed off. To my credit, I never would give them “the finger” or that hideous, wrenching look of maniacal truculence we’ve all gotten more than once from those afflicted with the plague we call road rage. I always remained rational enough to keep in mind that I might see these folks in church.

But my emotions would sometimes take hours to subside. I’d go home, shoot the dog, and kick my wife in the shins.

Over time I’ve come to realize that it was I who was the rube–getting so bent out of shape just because of another person’s ignorance. Plus, they’re not the only maroons on the planet.

Take that mooncalf at the salad bar–the one who spends twenty minutes carefully examining and selecting each leaf of lettuce one at a time, sifting through the sunflower seeds to pick out the best individual specimens. How would he know the fifteen people behind him just want to grab a few garbanzo beans and get to their table before the blue cheese grows hair.

And what is this thing with sunflower seeds in salad bars? Who ever thought to put sunflower seeds on a salad before Ponderosa spontaneously combusted in every American suburb.

But I digress…

Here’s the worst part. We all do this kind of thing sometime. As arrogant as we can be about our superior intellect, we all have been guilty of messing up someone else’s lives.

You know those dimwits at the highway tool booths who, for one reason or another, figure a way to block the lane for a relative eternity–hunting for change, asking for directions that they take forever to comprehend, engaging in a philosophical discussion with the attendant? A few weeks ago that dimwit was me.

I pulled into an EZ-Pass booth to pay my toll. Unfortunately I had no EZ-Pass, there was no attendant in the booth, and the lane was blocked by an automatic barrier rail (I’d have had no qualms about driving off–but unlike my father who once told me “those babies snap off easy” I was too timid to crash through the barrier). I had to wait ten minutes to get an attendant to come over and take my money–meanwhile holding up a train of commuters who HAD their EZ-Passes.

That’s why, anymore, when I face these situations I sit calmly, perhaps turn the radio up, lean my head back, and enjoy the moment. What the heck, so I’ll be a few minutes late getting over to the rest home to visit Mom. I’ve got my Manischewitz, my Best of Johnny Paycheck CD, even a fresh box of toothpicks–besides, the meatloaf they serve at the home every Friday tastes like three day old fish.

Plus, it’s very entertaining to watch the guy behind me blowing his stack as I once did. There’s something very calming about sitting in the middle of a conflagration, uninvolved and immune to the crossfire, watching the drama unfold.

I’ve decided that this is how I’m going to approach slow play on the golf course from now on. In the old days when the players in front of me would finally push me over the edge, waiting from 320 out for the green to clear before taking fifteen practice swings and going through a five minute pre-shot routine and then shanking it into the weeds, I’d bust a gusset. I had no chance of playing well after that.

From now on I’m going to just enjoy myself. I’ll pack an extra six of Lite in my bag instead of my rainwear–who needs that useless $600 Gore-Tex straightjacket? I’ll throw in some blue ice–guaranteed to keep my stash cold for the entire 7 hours of my round. Maybe I’ll start to smoke Hav-a-Tampas–better yet learn to chew Skol.

So what if I get dizzy and pass out for five minutes–the guys in front of me will still be plum-bobbing their ten inch putts for twelve, or sitting in their cart forty yards in front of the green figuring out what hole they forgot to write down.

I’ll just hang out in the fairway with my chilled nectars, Skol spittle dripping down the corner of my mouth onto my new Tommy Bahama moo-moo, and relax and enjoy the day. Life is good.

And, if I can’t finish before I have to head over to the Elk’s Lodge for the wild game dinner, I’ll simply ride in from wherever I am. Forget that I paid for the entire round–who cares? I don’t have to tell anyone my 78 was for 14 holes. Soon, even my age-clouded mind will forget it wasn’t a full 18, and I’ll have a great story to tell to the grandkids about the day I broke 80.

You see, it’s all about attitude and perception–I just have to chill out and not worry about the red lights.