“For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You’re in your car, driving along, minding your own business and singing along to one of your faves on the radio. You’re in the far right lane with a cross street coming up, but you’re not turning – and if that light changes to yellow… well, let’s face it, you’re planning to gun it. You’re running late and stop lights take forever.
The car to your left, who’s just barely an inch in front of you, suddenly puts on her turn signal to come into your lane. She’s glancing frantically between your lane and her own and you get the distinct impression that she needs to make that right hand turn onto the cross street that you’re about to pass up.
What do you do?
- Speed up! It’s a two for one, really. You beat the potential red light and put her far enough behind you that she can’t sneak in.
- Do nothing. It’s her own fault she’s in the wrong lane to begin with.
- Slow down and let her in so she can make her turn. What’s an extra minute even if you’re already late?
I’d like to think that the majority of folks would choose option 3. However, driving a commute of an hour each way myself… that is grossly inaccurate. Drivers are swearing, flipping each other off, and occasionally -the epitome of road rage- threatening and even becoming violent towards the “offending” driver.
A long while back, I cut someone off who decided to follow me so they could scream at how wrong I was. It was a new town for me, I didn’t know the streets very well (which was why I ended up cutting him off). I was just barely an inch in front of him, and put my turn signal on. When the light turned green, I stepped on the gas to get those few extra inches so I could get that turn. He honked, he slammed on his brakes (unnecessary, really), then sped up to tailgate me.
I was 20 years old in a new town with no friends. He was somewhere in his 40’s, over 6′ tall, and heavyset. And he was loud. I’m forever grateful to the similarly-statured gentleman coworker that was standing outside my new job, who recognized me and asked my road-rager: “Is there a problem here?”
I’ve been the a**hole. The one weaving through traffic because I’m late for something – the doctor’s appointment, the meeting at work, even picking up my kids. Also, the one choosing option 1: speeding up so that I don’t need to let someone in front of me. Also, and not proudly, the one yelling and flipping someone off.
I’ve been the very pregnant and about to POP passenger as my husband fended off the screamers, swearers, and flippers of birds while he flew around cars towards the hospital. And I’ve been a concerned family member, rushing towards the hospital to see someone when something’s gone terribly wrong – and maybe not paying attention as closely as I should, being wrapped up in thoughts and emotion.
Haven’t we all been a few of these at one point in time?
Perhaps it’s worth the benefit of the doubt. A little tap on your brakes, maybe even a smile thrown in as you let them pass, just might ease someone’s day. Plus, it would certainly do more for your day than angrily cussing them out. Even if you’re a few minutes later than you’d hoped, you’ll likely arrive less anxious and irritated than if you’d taken the low road – so to speak.
I’m going to drive nicer on the way home today. I’d rather focus on the birds in the sky than those of fellow drivers.
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