On any one day, most of us will open the door to a car, sit down behind the steering wheel, turn the key and navigate our way through a maze of blacktop, concrete, on-ramps, exits, bridges, tunnels, school zones, construction sites and when we’re really lucky, wide open pavement which leads us to some destination other than the one where we are. Sometimes as we’re driving around I say to Rob, “Look at all these people who are someplace that they don’t want to be!” This is the cause of …… TRAFFIC!
Traffic is one of the most interesting and relative happenings of which I know. Whether there is any traffic to speak of or not really depends on what time of day it is, what city you are in, how big the roads are compared to how many cars are on those roads, weather conditions and most of all the mental and emotional state of all the different folks driving all those cars. Yes, the mental and emotional state! Are the drivers on their way to or from a job they love or hate? Are they out running errands with no set schedule? Are they on their way to an emergency care unit to tend to a loved one? Are they texting, talking on the phone, eating or trying to find street signs because they are lost? All of this reflects on how your fellow road-mates react to the conditions they are in and inevitably how well they stay in their lane.
I have found that once we enter our cars we become islands – separated from the rest of the world no matter what time of day it is or how many other cars are along on our journey. With our doors locked and stereo on, we cruise along on a path we believe belongs totally to us. Sometimes forgetting the driver’s ed. classes that we endured so many years ago! Rules, regulations and courtesy are sometimes forgotten by us and at the same time MUST be remembered by everyone else. I can’t believe how many times I have found myself saying; “Can you believe that so-in-so? Where did they learn to drive?” When perhaps it was I who was following a little too close or driving a little too fast.
*Driving Quiz: When is it OK not to use a turn single?
- When there is no one behind you.
- When you are in a turn only lane.
- When there is no one in the on-coming lane.
- When turning right on red.
- One should always use a turn signal when changing direction or lanes.
The most broken laws on the road these days are: speeding, failure to stop, improper turns, use of a cell phone and distracted or dangerous driving. How often do you break or bend these rules? Are you justified in speeding because you are late for an appointment? Do you just “roll” through stop signs or past a school bus? Do you really stop before you make that right turn on a red light? Are you guilty of texting while driving? What about trying to read the newspaper or a map or putting on makeup while behind the wheel?
My questioning here has made me really begin to pay attention to my own driving habits and I began to notice some unkindness in myself as I was driving. Why did my everyday practices of giving and service morph into self-serving habits once I sat down behind the wheel? I found that almost as soon as I sat down in the car my heart rate would elevate just a little. Wow, how surprising! Even when I was really trying to be the best driver I could be, I found that I became intoxicated by the drivers around me. If someone started to pass me on the inside – what did I do? – I accelerated! Turn signals weren’t so automatic for me and merging was sometimes a struggle. The more I noticed, the more I realized it was a time for a change. So, I have begun to look at my driving skills in a new light – in fact I have begun to shine a light on exactly what I’m doing when I’m behind the wheel. I began to pay attention to how I was driving and how I reacted to the situations presented to me when I am behind the wheel.
I turned to my everyday practices which have allowed me to be a more caring person. These practices have opened me up to be one who is more caring to myself and others and to be of service to everyone. Somehow, when I was in my ‘island car’, these practices eluded me. I felt the separation when I got into a car! Now, I work every time I’m the driver, to approach traffic of any kind, as a practice – an opportunity to offer kindness, compassion and forgiveness to those around me and to be of service to my fellow commuters. I remind myself to back off the gas so as to allow that silver car to merge onto the freeway. I stop short of a red traffic light to allow someone to pull out of a parking lot or corner gas station. I pull over and stop for an emergency vehicle to pass and I even stop at a corner with no marked crosswalk so the person standing there may cross the street (remembering that I am the one sitting in a warm, dry car!). In some cases these are just random acts of kindness – in other cases it may save a life!
We are community based beings. No matter how small or how large our immediate community is, we all deal with traffic. Use your time behind the wheel to bestow kindness and generosity to those around you. You don’t have to give money to be generous; you can simply give the person on the ‘on-ramp’ an opportunity to merge, or the guy in front of you a little more room. These everyday situations can be turned into Sacred Moments. Yep, even in the heights of rush-hour traffic we can drop all judgments, take a deep breath and bless our fellow travelers on their journey and extend random acts of kindness to everyone we pass. No one but you will know about these random acts of kindness…and that my friend is true service!
Happy trails. Steve & Rob
*Answer to the Quiz – e. One should always use a turn signal when changing directions or lanes.