Rage in an Age of Corona

We all know about road rage. It’s covered in the DMV handbook for California, as it probably is in most states. The handbook describes it as “aggressive driving” and cites examples like tailgating and unnecessary lane changes. It even mentions provocative “hand gestures.”

I am not an aggressive driver. In fact, I probably encourage road rage since I drive at or below the speed limit even on the freeway. That’s when I’m driving. Right now, my car has been parked in the garage at work for two weeks, which means I walk everywhere. And therein lies the problem.

I have sidewalk rage. What is that? I walk fast, weave my way around dog walkers, strollers, and delivery guys, and cut off slow-moving traffic that hogs up the center of the sidewalk or, worse, sways from one side to the other while engaged in a stream-of-consciousness conversation on a cellphone. That is to say, I do not suffer sidewalk fools.

But before you judge me, know that sidewalk rage comes from spending more than a decade navigating the streets of New York City, primarily Manhattan and the Bronx. If you don’t know what that’s like, imagine living in a video game that includes dodgeball and an obstacle course. Add Grand Theft Auto III and the chase scene from Bullitt and you’ll come pretty close (see Walkin Ova Heer!).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining, especially with the arrival of Coronavirus, which has created a near paradise for sidewalk ragers like me. I say near, because the number of dog walkers has proliferated in proportion to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Even so, the dog walkers skirt me, giving me ample berth, and often taking to the street to avoid me as I schlep along with groceries or book bags. It is also not uncommon for people to see me coming and deliberately move out of the way to maintain the recommended six feet of distance.

Once, just once, mind you, I drifted toward one of these people to see her reaction. Predictably, she moved onto a lawn so as not to fall within my deadly orbit. I pretended not to notice but then corrected my trajectory and smiled as we passed. She was having none of it, though, and gave me a scowl. Good thing the Distance Deputies have not been organized yet. I would be writing this wearing an ankle bracelet monitor.

I know I’m supposed to be worked up about this–we all are–but I prefer to look on the bright side of the crisis. That includes more walking, better relationships as people spend time with their children and pets, less traffic, and the elimination of sidewalk rage. As I have stated before in this blog, I do not want to trivialize the crisis or the suffering of those who have contracted COVID-19 and their families, not to mention the effect on the economy, but panic doesn’t help anyone.

And it’s not as if social distancing helps reduce stress. On the contrary, it heightens it. This, despite stories of individual acts of charity like buying groceries for an elderly neighbor or deferring rent payments. People are on edge, and you can see it everywhere, even on relatively clear sidewalks. The reason ought to be obvious to anyone with cable. We are long past the question of whether the media reports the news or makes it. They now shape reality and are, for the most part, out of control and unaccountable.

I had first-hand experience of this when I went up to a guy in a store parking lot after he went off on a clerk because she couldn’t give him quarters. He was visibly upset. I told him I had quarters and asked him if he was all right. “All right?” he asked. “How could I be all right? Haven’t you seen the news?”

I’m not sure, but he was probably referring to the latest decree concerning house arrest–uh, sheltering in place–issued by the county. He looked at me suspiciously, got into his car, and sped away. Enraged, no doubt. I turned around and started my long trek back to my house, walking. That’s when I discovered another benefit to the crisis. I came across a sidewalk that is actually older than me.

Image credits: Feature by Timon Studler on Unsplash. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. As I was rudely interrupted and acosted..Wishing and a hopin..Valley of The Doll? If I want..And you?
    And Why Are the prophets writing on The Business Walz? Ahh hu. Bowling Alley..Dig Groom..anaand VFW e Robert Hall..Paul Miller? Wusshu.Aognybody have a heart..Wowe. Hear they come Post Critters..

  2. You are a ray of sanity made palatable by the way you interpret the world around you. I have gotten to the point where I truly believe the news is being put out by the combined efforts of Chicken Little and Stephen King. The virus is very real and quite terrifying and, apparently, has produced more experts on the virus than there are virus germs. It would lessen my anxiety if on occasion there would be some level of agreement!
    You are a breath of fresh air.

    1. Liz, I’ve never been called a “ray of sanity,” so I appreciate that. I like the Chicken Little, Stephen King line. You just might be my favorite Strunk. Stay safe.

  3. We live in a suburban community where there are no sidewalks, so everybody walks in the street. There is very little through traffic, so it works quite well for us.

    The nice thing about it is that I have seen neighbors that I haven’t seen in eight or nine
    years, we are all out walking, and catching up with each other.

  4. I didn’t even bother with sidewalk rage aimed at the dumbos blocking the paved paths in Fort Tryon Park. I just skulked home….terrified.

    1. Kim, they’re out in force, everywhere. At least you are not dealing with dogs, although I saw a funny scene this afternoon on a walk with four of my grandkids. A guy down the street dressed up in a dinosaur costume and waved at all the kids outside. It was pretty funny. Stay sane.

  5. Ah…,Robert:). Did I miss something in a previous post; Why is your car in a garage at work?
    Anyway, I am trying to work out a safe way for me to meet my immigration clients, as deportation hearings continue on as scheduled. Tomorrow, I’ll try having my client sit just outside my screen door, with me on the other side. We shall see.
    Sidewalk rage…hmm, haven’t seen that yet, but we don’t have sidewalks in my area. The truth is that I see very few people outside of their homes, here. At night, I look outside of my kitchen window and feel comforted to be able to see the big screen televisions on, through their windows, allowing me to , at least, share whatever program is being watched.
    Blessings, Robert. Thank you:)

    1. I’ve always thought it sad that so many people have their televisions on at night. It reminds me of a scene from Fahrenheit 451. Please stay safe and well. You are in a vulnerable position.

  6. Love it = “so as not to fall within my deadly orbit” — and the “Distance Deputies”– very funny -…. and the 4 Seasons photo …you “Walk Like a Man” right ?!– take care Robert


    1. Ah, yes, Aisle Rage. It’s a cousin of Sidewalk Rage with more vicious perpetrators and metal vehicles. I’ve also felt as if people were following me, increasing the rage. That’s why I hardly shop.

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