Motorists: What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?

  • What-do-you-do-songWhat do you do with the mad that you feel
  • When you feel so mad you could bite?
  • When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
  • And nothing you do seems very right?

I couldn’t help but think of the classic Mr. Rogers song, What Do You Do?, while riding Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills recently. With an impatient motorist on my back wheel and angst all around me, I chanted this stanza from the Rogers ditty simply to keep myself composed.

Still I couldn’t help but wonder: was I the road user that most needed a mantra? What about those folks inside those shells of glass and steel always in a hurry to get somewhere? Why aren’t they doing something to keep themselves composed, so to speak?

It is a fair question, I think, because the cyclist bears the brunt of road rage and intimidation and other such grade-school tantrums. Consider how a motorist reacts when a cyclist snakes to the front of the long car queue, for example, or when the cyclist can’t quite hustle the speed limit. Damn those cyclists! Ride on the sidewalk! I wish that those drivers would heed Mr. Roger’s sage advice. Take this stanza as your mantra, motorists!
 

  • It’s great to be able to stop
  • When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
  • And be able to do something else instead
  • And think this song:
  • I can stop when I want to
  • Can stop when I wish.
  • I can stop, stop, stop any time.

 
Not to essentialize these folks; they’re more than motorists. Clearly they’re ambulatory too. Some may also ride a bike. (Most of us are multi-modal even if it’s been a while since we learned to ride a bike.) Many cyclists drive, of course because we’re mere mortals in a car-centric world without jet heels like Flash Gordon.

When we get behind the wheel in rush hour traffic and creep forward (inevitably in the slowest travel lane) we too can implode in a pique of childhood rage. If you prick us, do we not bleed? Yep – just like any other motorist. When we do emotionally bulge at the seams we would do well to repeat the Rogers mantra.

We can choose how we move, however. My answer to our everyday Carmageddon is simply to apply some discretion to my motor trips. Why? I recognize that I’m not my best self when I’m behind the wheel. I’ll cop to the obvious: inside my shell I’m not accountable to fellow motorists or to the larger community of Angelenos. So sometimes I’ll misbehave behind the wheel. Asking a mere mortal locked in Los Angeles motor madness to act rationally and prudently may be asking too much. (Hence the need for the mantra.)

As a cyclist, I appreciate that Beverly Hills is well-served by a half-dozen bus lines (like Rome, all Westside roads and transit routes seem to converge here). Every bus is equipped with dual bike racks to make that ‘last mile’ trip from home to bus, or bus to work, more convenient. There are not many trips that I couldn’t make by transit.

But truthfully I’d simply rather ride a bike than take the bus or the car. Even on the hottest days. Even when heading to the northeast requires a jog through the avenues of Lincoln Heights or the northern reaches of Downtown. Why? It’s all about control: my route, my pace, my mood. Auto travel sacrifices one or two of them. Isn’t it ironic that so many of us still fancy single-passenger trips when the ostensible benefits of same have long yielded to the reality of overcrowded roads?

Sometimes I can’t conveniently avoid driving, and at those times I try to be cognizant of my impact on the environment, the economy, and of course my fellow motorists. That takes the edge off. It is a benefit of making a conscious mode choice instead of reflexively taking the default option. When I do choose to drive, at least I know what I’m getting into.

For those times when we do find ourselves behind the wheel, remember Mr. Rogers. Here’s his song in its entirety. Download the sheet music. Make it your mantra on two wheels or four!
 

  • What do you do with the mad that you feel
  • When you feel so mad you could bite?
  • When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
  • And nothing you do seems very right?
  • What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
  • Do you pound some clay or some dough?
  • Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
  • Or see how fast you go?
  • It’s great to be able to stop
  • When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
  • And be able to do something else instead
  • And think this song:
  • I can stop when I want to
  • Can stop when I wish.
  • I can stop, stop, stop any time.
  • And what a good feeling to feel like this
  • And know that the feeling is really mine.
  • Know that there’s something deep inside
  • That helps us become what we can.
  • For a girl can be someday a woman
  • And a boy can be someday a man.
  • What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?
  • © 1968 By Fred M. Rogers