As I was driving around today I noticed several people who were noticeably upset about their fellow auto enthusiasts. Iâ€™m not sure if I am in a more grounded place because I have been dealing with my grandfathers turn for the worse, the funeral I attended this afternoon, or something elseâ€¦ but I found myself waxing about the phenomenon of frustration, mockery and even rage on the road.
In doing so I was reminded of a story one of my best friends from high school told me shortly after graduating from college. He and his college sweetheart had flown back (separately) to Boston so that he could meet her family. He was staying in a hotel a few miles from their home, had just checked in and was walking to the corner store for a snack and a magazine with which to pass the couple of hours he had until dinner.
As he began to cross the street, a car turning the corner far to fast nearly clipped him. Caught off guard and nearly scared out of his wits he reacted instantly and hit the back fender of the car with his hand, simultaneously, he encouraged the drive to slow down and look before turning corners in the future. Apparently offended by the young whipper snapper â€˜s language and probably a bit emotionally charged up himself over thinking he had hit the youth, the driver indicated that my friend was number one with him as well.
A couple of hours later, as Iâ€™m sure you have pieced together by now, the two were formally introduced. Fortunately for everyone concerned, cooler heads prevailed (the father said the young man looked familiar, to which my friend replied â€œyou do too, would you mind holding up your middle finger so I can be sureâ€) and it became an funny anecdote rather than the death knell of the young relationship.
I was also reminded of another story, this one from a larger context for which we all have some understanding. The date was September 11th, and the eventâ€¦ well today it bears the name of the date on which it occurred. As we watched the news coverage, there was a clip of a man hanging on to the outside of the building, needing a miracle to survive.
My friend and business partner (at the time) turned to me and said something to the effect of â€œthe sad thing is, I keep thinking, those are real people, just like you and me. They have families, they have dreams, they have livesâ€¦ just like us. The only real difference is that they happen to be working in the World Trade Center today.â€
I do not mean to reduce the tragedy of 9/11 to the level of road rage, however the confluence of these two events is where my mind went. Because, the guy taking the corner a little too fastâ€¦ is just an excited father, racing to get home to make sure everything is perfect for a dinner at which he is going to meet the man his one and only daughter might spend the rest of her life with. The woman who cuts you off in traffic might just be running late to pick up her 5 year old from a day care center that is closing in ten minutes. Sheâ€™s not trying to beat you to that yellow light, she is trying to avoid putting someone at the day care in a compromised position.
The point, of course, is that other motorists are people too, just like you. They have lives, priorities, and distractions. None of them set out to upset you, head you off, of act like a complete idiot by missing that stop sign. Sometimes, life just happens to people.
Instead of being mad at them for it, how about giving them a smile and a wave to let them know you understand? Instead of saying â€œno way buddy, youâ€™re not passing me on the right and getting in front of meâ€ why not just ease back a little and let them inâ€ As you ease off the gas and open up space, you will feel your tension level drop too, I promise. Random acts of kindness have been proven to be good for your healthâ€¦ and one or two fewer angry motorists are better for everyoneâ€™s health.
So next time you find yourself dealing with a irate or irresponsible driver, consider taking the advice of the penguins from childrenâ€™s movie Madagascarâ€¦ â€œSmile and wave boys, smile and waveâ€