Honk...Honk..Beep...Grumble...Grumble....Complain. This was my Friday last week. Sitting in traffic as I made my way home from a wonderful visit in Temecula, CA. Sitting in the car watching all that is going on allows time for the internal wheels to turn. It helped that my kids were so content drawing and reading that I didn't have to answer any "are we there yet?" questions.
I tend to be a polite driver. I tend to let people in when they are signaling and pleading because their lane is ending. But as I watched I realized that is not normal...most people caught in grid lock have no desire to lend a hand. It almost seems if you signal a lane change its like chumming the water. LA doesn't know how to handle a polite driver...in fact it seems to anger them. I began to draw comparisons to the world as a whole (I mean isn't this what everyone does when a 4.5 hour drive takes them 8.5 hours?).
I could see the different driver types as a metaphor for the people we meet in the world. How we treat them potentially affects this whole string of cars. As a whole I think the world could use some more patience with our fellow humans. We are all just people trying to do our best after all. So Here I have compiled my list of drivers you meet while in grid lock and how treating them different then our instinct might yield a different result.
The Impatient speed Demon: You have all seen it...maybe you have been it...not sure. But you know this person...this is the one who when everyone is stopped, they have decided the shoulder is their own personal lane. I mean where they have to be is just so much more important then where anyone else waiting in that mess must be. Don't be this person . They add to the anger pool that we all know is festering. Like everyone sitting there wishes they had the moxie to do what this guy so brazenly is doing...speeding down the shoulder weaving in and out when there is an opening. But, we all realize how dangerous this is...not just to ourselves but to everyone else on that road. The problem with the impatient speed demon is they let their frustration at being stuck just take over. They just see red and punch it. The thing is...the way they are driving all it will take is one unpredicted move from another driver and we have an accident. Not only is there potential for injury but this will slow down all of us even more . Now emergency personnel must make their way slowly through the grid lock,,.then potentially block off lanes creating a smaller grid to be locked. Just don't do it. This driver personality tends to bring out the stubborn driver in all of us. the tendency to do little things to keep this guy from moving at his break neck speed. The problem with that reaction is we are increasing the chance of mishap. Just let him go...it's safer for you that way. Quell your own road rage...you will feel better. We see this personality in our daily lives too. They were the bankers who recklessly gave out loans they knew were bad so they could quickly make a buck on commission. But what happened? The real estate market balloon popped. Those people couldn't make their payments because of adjustable rate interest and their houses had dropped value they were upside down, so simply selling wasn't a possibility. The banks wouldn't work with them and so they lost their homes. Those of us who could still make our payments...we were still affected. We put a large chunk of change as a down payment on our current home and still went upside down. We still have almost no equity so we lost our investment...though thankfully not our home. Do you see that no matter the situation, those that are only looking out for themselves and their own quick gain not only hurt their direct victims, but the hurt spreads to anyone in the vicinity?
WE NEED LESS OF THIS IN THE WORLD!! If you are this person, you can make a change. and the rest of us need you to. Oh I know we sit back admiringly and throw compliments your way. We see you as successful, generous, and a piece of us wishes we could be like you. But when the chips fall our eyes are opened. We see that you made your money by hurting others and that hurt spreads like a cancer. There is nothing wrong with making money and trying to get ahead...but I dislike the vision of one person pushing many down just for the appearance of being taller. You can be successful without damaging those around you...I have seen it.
Gong back to the freeway...you may not get ahead as fast but you will get their safely and without causing harm.
The Hot Mess driver: This is a driver near and dear to my heart. I am for sure not one who loves to drive. I do it out of necessity. The first time I drove to LA myself my heart raced, I had death grip on the steering wheel and I am pretty sure I sweated through all my clothes. (Of course my first drive was during a torrential down pour with visibility of like zero, but whose counting) Not knowing the roads that well, not giving yourself enough time because of inexperience, and fear of the impatient speed demons are not a great combination. This is the person not trying to be a jerk, but inadvertently does things that make them seem like a jerk. They don't realize the lane is ending so they end up trying to move over at the last minute. Of course the people often confuse them with our next driver, The rules don't apply to them driver, but this is a mistake,,,nothing was intentional. It would be so easy to not let them in and feel justified. But you can tell by the wide eyed apologetic look on their face...they were not trying to one up you.....they just aren't used to the lanes in LA that merge and regenerate seemingly on a whim. We need more patience with each other!! We have seen this in our life. They are the ones walking into the meeting late, tying to be quiet but inevitably dropping something loudly creating interruption. Heck I think we all take turns being this person for one reason or another. It is so so easy to sit back and judge and make assumptions. But what if instead we simply pulled out a chair for them to sit in...and graciously ignored the state of their hair. We all have those days when things don't go as planned, and we are trying our best. Some days our best doesn't cut it and we need a whole heap of GRACE!. Instead of assuming people are jerks and running them off the road in retaliation, what would the world look like if instead we simply let them in our lane? Would it really slow us down that much? I am not as naive as all that...I know there are jerks in the world...I just don't think we need to be walking around assuming everyone is one. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine that world where instead of everyone out for themselves, we see people having hands ready to help/ That person may very well be a jerk...but that doesn't mean I need to be one. On my drive home, there were many times a lane ended or was exiting onto another freeway. Multiple times I let more than one car make that last minute lane change in front of me. But when I didn't realize the lane I was in exited and needed to move over...cars didn't let me in, they honked at me like I was just trying to take their place. I did make my way over, but I'll be honest it hurts my heart that we as a people can't just give each other a break. There is a change of mind happening...I've seen some of those videos. Lets choose to be part of the positive change.
The Rules Don't Apply To Them Driver: As I said before, these are at times easily mixed up with the Hot Mess. Often in the car its hard to tell the difference. But they tend to be the ones when there has been a warning light flashing that a lane is ending for the past 5 miles. These are the peeps who cruise along in that ending lane trying to get as far in front of the pack as they can before moving over. We have all seen it....some of us may even be guilty. This driver is often confused with other types because they mimic. They might at times appear to be the speed demon, but speed isn't always their motivation; Some times it really seems like they just want to see what they can get away with. They run the red lights because, pshh why should they have to stop? They ignore warning signs, hazard lights...sometimes with grave consequences. Oh I know we see this person in our off the freeway lives. I am typically first in line to call them on it too. Who do they think they are? I guess the reason I have issues with this is most of the time rules are there to keep us from getting hurt or hurting someone else. Today though its a fine line since we have a movement to create rules to hurt people. Interestingly, I think most of those new rules are created by the same people who think they don't have to follow rules. For these I go back to one simple tenet: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You may not be religious but I think we can all agree this is a pretty good way to live your life. You don't want people beating you? Then don't beat other people. You don't want people cutting you off on the road? then don't cut people off on the road. They say we should lead by example. So instead of waiting for someone else to be the change..we can start. Lets all agree to treat others how we want to be treated. Wouldn't that just be a wonderful world? I know we have to live and drive in reality and there are people who think they can do whatever to whoever and get away with it...we just don't need to be those people.
The Broken Down Needs a Hand Driver: Oh boy there is nothing like finally having the freeway moving only to have your lane stop while around you traffic is still flowing. Yes this happened and when I finally came to the cause it was a broken down semi truck. Yeah you try maneuvering that across 3 grid locked lanes to get to the shoulder before it breaks down...not likely. Do they need to be honked at and have your fists raised at them? No they need patience and perhaps a tow truck. But I have seen people get so angry and a driver whose car is just not working right. I have had it happen (not in LA) where my car seemed fine and then bing bing bing I have warning lights going off. The drive back from San Francisco after my brother died...my car overheated 4 times. The trip was unexpected so I didn't take the time to do all the pre trip maintenance I usually do. I literally got in the car and drove. I am thankful it was the drive home not there but...man I could see people irritated as we were slowing down and moving over,. You never know someones whole story and what has brought them to this point. Lets be kinder and more helpful. What a difference it would have made for my heart to have someone offer help when I was buried in grief...they didn't know I was drowning in tears, they just were annoyed I took a non working car on the road. Just remember you don't know their story. This happens in life all the time, People don't show up for a meeting, don't call you back, are rude to you when you see them. We don't know what happened that day, that morning. Maybe they aren't feeling well, maybe they got bad news. It's hard. As a general tendency we as people put everything into the context of ourselves. Like of course they were rude to us because they were mad at us. And we take action based on those assumptions. Then when we realize what was really going on we are embarrassed by our own thought process. Perhaps we should assume nothing is about us until we are told it is. The driver whose car was breaking down...man he wasn't trying to be a rock in a stream, he was forced to be one.
Oh yes there is one more: The average cruising along Driver: This person is just flowing along trying their best to stay safe. Most of us in our daily life tend to be this driver. We aren't in distress, we aren't weaving around those in front of us. We work, raise our children, pay our bills. My only comment is we need to take note of those around us. We need patience too. We need to offer help. We need to see what is going on around us more completely. We do pretty well, but lets help out those hot messes and broken down drivers. Lets just let the rule breakers and speed demons pass us by so we don't get involved in their crash (we know they will crash at some point, some day). We tend to be the ones annoyed by others lack of planning, but we can make another choice. Does it help to have collective anger grow?
Perhaps my analogies seem odd...but hey what else is there to do when stuck in traffic then to pause and take it all in? I think we as a whole need more of that. Pause, deep breath and observe. Then we can more clearly see the picture and act accordingly.