Road Rage, Nickelback and Pandora

I want to tell you a story about Pandora, the convenient-but-frustrating online audio streaming service. First I need to set the mood for this story, so let’s start with a talk about road rage to get revved up (pun intended).

We all have road rage. I believe even the nicest people can succumb to it. Whether the road conditions and surrounding drivers justify our disappointment is not important, but I do believe that every single instance of true road rage is a severe overreaction. We may be “right,” but the magnitude of our actual rage probably outweighs the severity of the mishap something like… 999,999 times out of a million. Real road rage is instantaneous, borderline insane, and mostly involuntary. That’s why we shouldn’t judge others for it; we can’t even help it! It just immediately explodes out of the angriest little nooks of our brains. It’s like watching a video of a lit M-80 firecracker inside a watermelon, when you’re just watching a video of a watermelon and for a minute you wonder if it’s a picture or if maybe your phone froze because it’s literally just sitting there being a watermelon. Then it blows up into smithereens with no warning whatsoever.

For me it’s always something small. The person in front of me won’t jam the gas immediately within a millisecond of a light turning green. Or someone will speed up to merge in front of me when they should’ve yielded. It’s only instinctive at this point for me to curse the offending driver’s entire ancestral lineage and endless future generations of offspring.

I think I’m one of the nicest, most considerate types of people; I genuinely hate doing anything that might make someone else unhappy. But the other day I was stuck behind an elderly man trying to parallel park his early-90's Ford Crown Victoria (basically a small boat) in a small space on a narrow, one-way street in front of a house that didn’t even have a driveway to use.

Because he had to try not once, but twice to get it right, I swear to you I nearly exploded. The second that I realized that his initial attempt was going to fail (in his ancient vehicle with no rear-view camera between two jerks whose poor parking jobs were the true culprit here) as he was still in reverse, I almost spontaneously combusted. I nearly exploded and I’d have taken out that old man and maybe the entire city block with me. It was instantaneous, it was an exceptional amount of overkill, and it was totally involuntary.

I should have applauded him for absolutely nailing it on his second try. He literally nailed it; you couldn’t parallel park a hot wheels car with your bare hands that perfectly. Instead I was still so uncontrollably enraged, so livid and full of pure internal fire and hatred because of the 10 harmless seconds this entire fiasco cost me, that I’m amazed I noticed at all.

I hope that now you can understand what I felt, or at least relate to the feeling, so it’s time to bring this rage train back to its first stop at the Pandora audio streaming service.

This wildly irrational anger is absolutely the exact same thing I felt last night when I merely thought I heard a Nickelback song start to play on one of my precisely and finely crafted Pandora stations. I heard two whole chords, two, and I thought it was the song “Photograph.” My heart almost stopped I was so livid. I’d spent so much time meticulously detailing my personal stations that I couldn’t believe it was possible.

I wasn’t even right. I think it was “Behind Blue Eyes,” or something that obviously started with two chords very similar to those of “Photograph.” I can’t remember exactly what it was because I was so mad at the simple thought of the wrong song it might have been. All I can remember is that feeling of seething that I held on to for apparently three whole minutes, spent entirely in recovery from that half-second of being wrong.

If Nickelback or Hinder comes on the radio, I’ll scoff a little bit and change the channel. However, it was on my personal station, so it was like Pandora had aimed a kill-shot at the artistic part of my soul, and I couldn’t handle it. It’s like Pandora sneaking a Nickelback song that I’d somehow never had the chance to thumbs-down in the five years I’ve developed that station is somehow comparable to a legitimately bad person publicly slandering my wife or mother. It’s like Pandora just killed my puppy and stole my car right after my wife died, and my inner John Wick was ready to go, but if all the action and emotion from that movie had been crammed into my brain in a single second.

In hindsight, even if I weren’t wrong and it really had been “Photograph” by Nickelback, I’m going to say that emotional response was an egregious overreaction. This phenomenon of enraged overreaction is infuriating upon occurrence and troubling shortly thereafter, but in hindsight is entertaining.

From now on, when I experience this irrational sensation on the road, in a restaurant, or at the DMV (a different story for a different day), I’ll describe it by saying “Nickelback got my Pandora.”