Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

A few weeks back I got a photo ticket on Allen Road in Beaverton. I was in traffic in the right lane where 40mph was the prevailing speed of all of the cars when we all came upon the speed trap. It was like driving through a strobe light. I think 10 or so cars got zapped, me among them. I was clocked at 40mph in a 30mph zone. Most of the east-west roads like this in Beaverton are 35-40 mph, so I thought I was going at a safe speed. I was wrong. Since I didn’t even look to see what it was when I turned on the road from Murray Road, I had been negligent – guilty!

I went to Beaverton City Hall to fess up and they told me I had an option to take an online traffic safety course. It would cost $110, the same as the fine. If I took the course, the charge would be dismissed. Sure — why not — no-brainer.

RoadRageThe Court Services Institute Choices course was supposed to take about 4 hours, so I waited until a free Saturday morning to take the test. The first several sections dealt with simple traffic safety knowledge. But then it got into the behavioral issues that cause people to speed. The premise from this point forward is that the course participant has trouble controlling his/her emotions and expresses it in their driving. The goal of the course, it says, is “to enable offenders to discover alternative behavior and make choices to behave in a way that will end their illegal behavior and prevent their return to court.” It begins to require answers that comport with that bias. A question might read something like…

Which of the following behaviors describe your response to the driving or others?

  1. I get angry when someone is driving too slow.
  2. I get angry when someone tailgates me.
  3. I get angry when someone cuts me off.
  4. I get angry when someone gestures at me.
  5. I get angry when someone honks at me.

There is no “other” or “not applicable.” You cannot “pass.” You have to choose one. However you answer, the following questions progressively delve into your anger until it begins to assess your potential for rage. So however you answer this first question leads you on a path of supposedly recognizing your rage and committing to a plan to change your behaviors so that you will not erupt in road rage.

I could not find an answer that fit my situation. I was negligent and driving with the other fast traffic. I was guilty. I was not angry. Never even got mad while driving on that road that fateful afternoon. No one erupted in rage on any of the other cars, either, though I sure quite a few drivers cursed when they realized they’d been zapped. The fact is, I never really do get very mad when driving. After over 40 years of driving you have pretty much seen everything and it is hard to get excited about the rude behavior of others. It just is what it is.

But you know… as the course progressed… I was getting a little mad. I even detected a bit of “safety course rage” as I continued. I was being boxed into the inevitable conclusion that I am a near-homicidal maniac, reeling with rage behind the wheel of a car. If we hadn’t been laughing so hard (my wife was with me and I was reading the questions and the answer options out loud as I took the course), I might have lost my cool. Oh, and here is another thing — you are supposed to take an allotted amount of time on each section (presumably so you can mull over your errant ways). If you complete a simple section within say 2 minutes (which was all that was required for most), it would not let you continue until 8 minutes had passed.

The course finishes with a test. It turns out that the answers to the test are contingent upon how you answered your earlier “road rage” questions. Since there were no true answers that described my situation, I was pretty much picking my answers at random as I went through the course so I could move to the next section. But now I could not recall what I said! I barely passed, but I did get the completion certificate and my ticket was dismissed.

As I pondered over it in my heart , I came up with a few things that really do get me mad…

  • City Bureaucrats who come up with photo-ticket schemes to milk money from the law-abiding citizens in their town who had heretofore been on their side.
  • Getting a ticket that no real human officer would have given.
  • Taking an online course that demands that you self-identify as having road rage tendencies.
  • Being told in a very simple online course that you haven’t taken enough time with the section and must wait 6 more minutes before you can pass to the next.
  • Not getting all the answers right on a quiz (man, I hate that!)
  • Knowing that my town is infamously known around the Pacific Northwest as ticket town
  • Spending 4 hours of my Saturday morning in this inane course!!!!!

Okay… calm down.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. (Psalm 4:4)

*  Unfortunately I could not get back into the test to pull up an exact question, but this is in the ballpark

About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
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