update: I called the police on an angry driver, who turned out to be a coworker

Remember the letter-writer who was berated by an angry driver, who then turned out to be a coworker? Here’s the update.

Two business days after the first incident, I pulled into my deck to find the same car parked in my reserved spot, and the man standing alongside his car. I was freaked out and immediately turned around; I didn’t notice that there was another driver pulled over to the side as well. Turns out the guy had turned into the Expectant Mother spot, realized it was reserved, and hit another car as he was backing out of it.

The officer on the scene was the same one who I had worked with a few days prior, so he was aware of the previous incident. He assured me it was just a coincidence that the guy tried to park there, and that he hadn’t known it was reserved. It made me very uneasy for a few days, but I’ve never seen that driver again since (and now I’m out for several weeks on maternity leave!)

I didn’t go to HR after either incident, but my manager was aware of what happened, as were the other folks in my office (it’s hard to be discreet when a police officer comes to speak to you in the office). Everyone was very supportive and offered to walk me to my car, etc. The whole thing made me very mindful of how I drive near work and especially on-campus, since you never know who may be in the car behind you!

{ 55 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte

    I would like to think that this was a bit of a wakeup call for Professor Pitstop there–if you get lectured by the cops for road raging and hit a vehicle backing out all within a couple of days, you seriously need to change your driving approach.

    1. Allison

      Not that I want to excuse his behavior at all, but I wonder what might be going on in his life to make him act like this. Is it pure road rage, or is he dealing with a personal problem that’s distracting him and making him irritable?

        1. fposte

          He was actually leaving the parking space when he found it it was designated, though, so that suggests he’s not completely indifferent.

  2. Rae

    The driver who’s misbehaving really needs to be reprimanded. Good on your co-workers for sticking up for you. At this point, if your HR is decent, it may be good to let them know. Seriously road-ragey people may have other issues that need addressing.

    1. NewishAnon

      I’m not sure what bringing HR into this would accomplish at this point. This happened months ago, the cops were involved both times, and there have been no additional incidents. Going to HR now is pointless. Presumably the person has learned their lesson and there no reason to continue bringing it up.

      1. Rae

        I read this as happening recently with the employee going out on maternity leave. Perhaps not, at any rate if it’s been months, then it’s a pretty moot point, but it’s worth a conversation if the person continues to feel nervous. And, those in similar situations should feel encouraged to come forward.

        Perhaps it’s because I’m in the educational field, but we have been aggressively marketed about reporting bad behavior sooner rather than later. In 99.99% of the cases where someone in a workplace/school environment ended up truly harming another there were a pile of incidents leading up to it. Most of those incidents were never reported because while bad the people didn’t want the other to get in trouble. Now, everything is reported and it actually helps the environment feel much safer.

    2. Mister Pickle

      Having read this update, I think that Karma has issued its reprimand. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not Dr Leadfoot heeds it.

      (I mean, this guy road-rages at OP, the cops come – and then two days later he gets into an accident – in OP’s parking space – and OP and the same cops show up? I’ll bet you a dollar he was thinking Big Thoughts about Life after that).

      1. Allison

        Unfortunately, while getting into an accident may have delivered the karma he deserved, he may have caused the accident, AND while dealing with an accident is never fun, he’s also probably damaged the car of someone who may not have deserved it. Tough to say without knowing the details.

        1. Mister Pickle

          Yeah. If I know someone has bad karma, I tend to stay away from them.

          On the other hand, it’s hard to tell if karma is an indiscriminate shot or just highly efficient. It could be that the other driver had it coming, too.

  3. Paige Turner

    I couldn’t help but notice the connection between this driver hitting another car when backing out and the previous letter about the company mandating back-in parking…I’ve actually never backed in to park (and I live in a city where almost all the parking I do is parallel anyway) but it’s given me something to think about!

    1. Allison

      I don’t back in to park, and my company’s parking lot isn’t super busy since we all trickle in and trickle out, but I’m always really careful when backing out – continuously checking to see if there’s someone coming – and as I drive I’m sure to anticipate that any car that’s still running may back out. I know accidents happen, but I don’t see backing out to be a huge safety risk when people actually watch where they’re going.

      1. Natalie

        And drive reasonably slowly. I’m always amazed at people who drive 30 through a busy parking lot – how do you not understand that there are people and cars everywhere?

      2. Audiophile

        I’ve hit a car backing out. And I saw him as I was backing out, and he saw me but decided to blow through behind me – I was more than half way out and hit his back quarter panel.

        1. Bea W

          This is why I don’t trust people will stop. Sometimes they don’t even if they appear to be doing so. It totally freaks me out when a car stops to let me cross then starts rolling slowly forward. They have no intention of hitting me, but still.

          1. L McD

            Ugh, I hate the slow roll as a driver, too. People do it a lot around here, especially pulling out of side streets. EITHER GO, OR DON’T. Especially if they’re obviously texting or not looking directly at me, I cannot AT ALL judge if they’re aware that I’m coming or plan to yield.

            When I’m letting someone cross I always try to come to a full stop pretty far back from the crosswalk, so it’s obvious. But there’s a lot of impatient drivers around here in general. There’s very poor visibility in my parking lot at home when it’s full, so when I am backing out, I don’t mind the courtesy honk as someone whips around the corner (they are ALWAYS speeding). But it scares the crap out of me when someone just silently zooms past when they can obviously see me coming out. I’m next to a tinted minivan, guy, I can’t see you! I just try to go really slowly during peak times because yikes.

                1. fposte

                  There’s been some discussion of overlaying artificial noise onto them, apparently; one reason is that it’s been a real problem for blind people to judge proximity with silent cars.

                2. Cath in Canada

                  We have a plug-in hybrid (Chevy Volt – it’s so awesome!) and it has two separate horns – a regular one, and a quieter “hey pedestrian, there’s an electric car behind you!” one. We haven’t had to use either yet though.

                  I heard that in one city (Copenhagen springs to mind), they fitted electric cars/scooters used by pizza delivery companies with a little speaker that said “pizza! pizza! pizza!” over and over, in place of the usual chirping. That wouldn’t get annoying at all, eh?

                3. Mabel

                  I have a Prius, and I think I heard recently that new models were going to have some sort of “noisemaker” so people could hear them. I think it’s a great idea because – so many times I have had to drive slowly behind people (who can’t hear my car) walking down the middle of the parking lane.

        2. Anonsie

          My partner starting doing this junk recently– he’ll just breeze past people that are backing out and assumes they’ll stop for him, among a handful of other really rude/dangerous diving behaviors. He got a new car and suddenly he’s king of the asphalt for some reason. I kinda hope someone dings his car some time just so he’ll learn a lesson, but with his luck it’d be their fault and then they’d be on the hook for his crummy driving.

      3. fposte

        I think Jamie raised a good point about whether this method is genuinely provably safer or just believed to be safer. However, you have to assume that people are going to occasionally fail at watching where they’re going; the advantage of backing in may be that it makes that failure likelier to occur backing in, where pedestrians aren’t, than backing out.

        1. De Minimis

          Since that post I’ve watched for it a little more in our parking lot…several people do it, in all the rows. Unfortunately, many don’t do it well….I couldn’t use a crosswalk in our parking lot this morning due to someone attempting to back into a space next to it [they were taking so long I just decided to go a different way.]

      4. INTP

        I don’t see it as a major safety risk either, provided no one is flooring it out of their space. I’ve been hit (as a pedestrian) by cars that were parking, it doesn’t even hurt.* I’d imagine the possibility of property damage is about the same either way, with the likelihood of hitting someone backing out evened out by the likelihood of scraping another car when you’re parking in a way that you’re not used to. I only see it being a safety hazard if for some reason, like insufficient handicapped parking, elderly or otherwise fragile people are often walking around behind parked cars and losing their balance could lead to a serious injury.

        *I don’t make a habit of hanging out behind parked cars or anything, I just once lived somewhere that it was normal to park on the sidewalk and the motorists often didn’t check for pedestrians because why would anyone be, you know, walking on a sidewalk.

    1. fposte

      Huh? I don’t think that teaches you to shrug off being outright confronted and yelled at. She didn’t write in because she was upset that she got cut off, she was upset because somebody with a disproportionate rage reaction turns out to work with her.

    2. AnonAcademic

      I’m not sure how the issue is the OP’s driving skills? From their original post:

      “He started severely tailgating me off campus, but it turned out we were headed to the same parking deck at the university where we both work, so he was behind me the entire time we drove on campus as well. He thought I was driving too slowly (I was driving the speed limit) and began flashing hand signals (not obscenely) to me and driving erratically, including what looked like trying to pass me on the left on a two-lane curvy road, which almost caused an accident with an oncoming vehicle. I park in a noticeable reserved parking spot at the moment (an expectant mother space), and so when he followed me into the parking deck, he pulled behind me and hollered at me from his car (rudely, but without obscenities or threats, etc.).”

      1. De Minimis

        The original post was pretty well analyzed, the OP was not at fault in any way, and I think the only reason some thought otherwise is because of lack of familiarity with that type of road [a type on which I drive daily…]

        1. fposte

          “was pretty well analyzed” is a nice way of saying “was examined down to the minutest detail over and over again in true AAM commenter style” :-).

  4. Chriama

    This guy needs his license suspended until he takes another class. OR, if he’s dealing with an unusual, stressful personal situation, he needs to see a counsellor and figure out healthy coping mechanisms so he doesn’t react to every situation with anger and aggression. Driving sucks because even if you’re super careful, someone else’s carelessness can still kill you :'(

  5. De Minimis

    I actually have toned down a lot of my bad driving behavior habits as of late, and at least some of it was due to this post. I thought, “Do I really want to act like that jerk in the road rage thread on AAM?”

    My big thing was trying to beat the lights but I’ve quit for the most part.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Beating lights. It is interesting to see how traffic lights are timed. Once I committed to leaving my lead foot at home, I started noticing this. There is a major road in a near by community that I travel often. The speed limit is 40. The road looks like a 4 lane highway and people are always going too fast. So TPTB installed traffic lights – honestly, it feels like the lights are every two feet. So I drove 40 mph like the sign says. I quickly noticed that if I drove 40 mph I would hit most of the lights as green lights and I would sail right through. However, if I got caught in a herd that was doing 55-60, every. single. light. turned red on us. I never noticed this before. Interesting timing on those lights, I wonder how many other lights are timed in a similar manner.

      1. De Minimis

        For my commute there are some “key” lights where if you miss them, you get stuck there for a while…one of these was the one where I was really getting too aggro in trying to make it.

        Thankfully the vast majority of my commute is highway driving outside of the city. I only deal with lights for the first third of it.

        I’ve found if you just make a conscious decision to relax while driving it helps a lot.

      2. kozinskey

        The downtown in our city has timed the lights this way. The speed limit is 30 mph, but if you drive ~25 mph you’ll hit every light green and sail right through. It never fails to amuse me when people accelerate hard between every light and don’t get why all the cars they left behind at the last light are keeping up with them.

        1. CC

          Yes, my home town had a street with a green wave set just slightly lower than the posted speed limit, and I coasted comfortably through town every time, laughing at the people who wasted gas and brake shoe trying to get through town faster.

  6. academic HR

    Forget road rage, I’m experiencing incredulity at the fact the op only gets a couple of weeks of maternity leave. How much time ususal in the states?

    1. HR Holidays

      Under Federal law they have the opportunity for 12 weeks under FMLA leave, some State laws offer additional time. FMLA leave does not have to be paid so some elect to not use the full time allowed.

    2. Josh S

      There is no mandated Maternity Leave requirement in the US. None.

      The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows that employees who miss up to 12 weeks in a year because of a medical issue (or caring for a family member with a medical issue) must be given their job (or an equivalent one) back when they return. But there is no requirement that they be paid.

      At my current company, there is NO maternity/paternity/parental leave policy. We “get” to use our vacation days if we want to be paid for our time away. They are supposedly changing that, but no ETA or details on what the ‘new’ policy will look like.

  7. academic HR

    Oof at 12 weeks I was still working my way through post partum depression and anxiety. Even my friends who didn’t end up with PPD had babies that didn’t sleep through the night, or were just at the stage where they could leave the house relatively easily.

    1. Judy

      My son slept through the night 3 days before I went back to work. I considered that my back to work present from him. :)

      My daughter, on the other hand, she would have slept through the night at one week if the lactation nurse hadn’t suggested strongly that I wake her after 5, then 6 hours until she was one month old.

      1. VintageLydia USA

        Mine didn’t sleep through the night until he was 14 MONTHS old. He started Christmas week. Best Christmas gift ever.

  8. academic HR

    Oof at 12 weeks I was still working my way through post partum depression and anxiety. Even my friends who didn’t end up with PPD had babies that didn’t sleep through the night, or were just at the stage where they could leave the house relatively easily. HB

  9. Clerica

    Darn it. This is one post I was really wondering about, but the OP posted the same info in the comments of the original post. That said, nothing happening since then is good for her.

  10. Lamb

    I wonder if he parked there *because* it was OP’s spot, that he didn’t realize it was reserved and just thought she parked there by preference/habit, so decided to park there to stick it to OP, saw the “Expectant Mother” reserved sign, thought “Oh s***!” and hit the other car because he was backing the heck out of there. Makes sense to me if he didn’t want to be a guy harassing a pregnant woman (where as being a guy who makes the coworker he’s mad at find another parking spot was totally fine with him).

    1. Ringless

      Ditto– I’m not sure it was completely an innocent fluke that he ended up at that spot, and I would certainly be freaked out if I were OP.

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