Stuff I Probably Shouldn’t Do When I’m Driving
A cerebral loose nut behind the wheel.
Today, I’m going to come clean. There are a few things that I’ve done when I’m driving that I probably shouldn’t do. I think it’d be a good idea to share them with you so that you don’t do them, too.
I’m in the fast lane, as usual, keeping up with freeway traffic at about 75–80. I’m by myself so I don’t have to worry about my wife and kids. It’s just me on the way to work, listening to music, planning my day. Lo and behold, there is a slow driver ahead in the fast lane, and he’s plugging it up at 60 MPH. 3 miles go by and he refuses to budge. Traffic is dense and changing lanes would only slow me down.
Ahhhh, but there is a massive 4x4 behind me, and he wants me to get out of his way. It’s early in the morning and it’s dark. The truck lights are blinding and he’s tailgating me. Hmmm. Slow driver in front of me, a massive truck behind me. I change lanes, the truck passes and I get behind the truck. Ahead of me, the tin can that is riding on top of four enormous tires tailgates the slower car and the slower car changes lanes. Problem solved.
In another situation, I’ve been trailing a slow driver for a couple of miles and feeling frustrated. He finally notices me and changes lanes to the #2 lane. Instead of passing him, I shadow him for a mile or two, with the nose of my car lined up with his rear wheels. He can see my car in the rearview mirror, but he can’t see me directly. Where are we going? About 1/8th of a mile ahead, there is a slower car in front of him. I shadow the car next to me until he has to slow down for the car ahead of him in the #2 lane. Yeah, that car! Take that, you snail! Then I pass slowly while eating my apple on my way to work.
I once lived on a side street next to the main street. For some reason, people who drive on my street, seem to think that it’s OK to do 35–40 on my street when it’s clearly a residential street with a 25 mph zone. From time to time, there are some yahoos who want to blat down my street at about 65–70 on their motorcycles, too.
It’s all fun and games until I’m in the way. So when I’m in the stream of traffic with my car on my street, I putt along at 20 mph. I make sure that I keep a low speed whenever I see someone behind me there. Even when they’re not, I have no problem putting around at 20–25 mph on residential streets. I assume that where there are houses, there are kids. Yes, I’m thinking of the kids on residential streets because I know that they can pop out on a bike or a scooter at any time.
So it’s not all bad, you see? I do have a conscience, but I am also mindful that there are some pretty nutty people out there. We see other people in their cars and we have no idea what they’re going through. They just got fired. They’re on drugs, even legal drugs. They’re packing heat. We don’t know. Really.
I used to work construction and I heard a story about a drywaller (the guy who hangs drywall in commercial construction — big, burly and really goddamn strong). He had a road rage experience and he dished it out by punching the other guy through the glass of a closed car window. I don’t know if he went to jail or not, but there are people out there who, you know, lose their minds when they get angry.
I’m mindful of these things when I drive. I think of my wife and kids when I drive. I know also that I can’t think when I’m angry, so I allow myself to be patient. I give myself plenty of time to get where I’m going. I plan on arriving 10–15 minutes early. I remind myself that an irritating circumstance while driving is temporary, you know, because we’re all moving, and things can change quickly on the road.
A few years ago, my life turned around in my head one day as I was going to work from Costa Mesa To Carson in California. If you know the 405 around that area, you’ll find that northbound traffic is fine in the morning until you get to the 605, and then it’s jammed during rush hour. While Orange County was investing in infrastructure, Los Angeles County had no clearly defined plan for its roads. It’s like night and day.
Anyway, I’m stuck in traffic, playing whack-a-lane, when I notice that I’m stopped for a minute. I don’t know, maybe 20–30 cars passed me by on each side of me. I just about cried. Then a voice came to me and said, “This isn’t working for me”. So I said, “I accept everything exactly as it is right now, without reservation”. I repeated that, over and over again like a chant until I forgot what it was that I was so angry about. Before I knew it, I was at work.
That was a transformative moment for me. At that moment, I came to find salvation through acceptance. Most of my suffering comes from not accepting things as they are. Once I was able to accept where I was, I was able to decide where to go.
To put it differently, if you want to get somewhere and you’re lost, but you don’t accept where you are, it’s going to be really hard to get to where you want to be. I made a choice to accept my situation and move on. You can do that, too, if you want to. With that kind of attitude, I can avoid doing things that I shouldn’t do on the road.
Originally published on my blog, The Digital Firehose, Wednesday, October 1st, 2014. Updated for grammar, clarity and a turn of phrase here or there.