Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Test of Patience

On Tuesday this week I experienced one of the ultimate tests of patience...getting stuck in traffic. But this wasn't any normal traffic jam. This traffic was the result of billowy clouds of snow that whipped up like smoke to blind drivers, and sheets of packed snow that reduced speeds to 2 miles per hour.

Between 6:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., I had managed to drive only about 45 miles. By the time I considered turning around, traffic was backed up both ways. I kept thinking to myself that traffic would open up. I wondered if I could have taken a better route. I realized that I would soon need to pee.

We hear a lot these days about road rage. In fact, a driver in the Twin Cities recently shot a man in another vehicle after both drivers had careened through traffic, angry about who knows what, trying to drive each other off the road. At a mall a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a more typical example of road rage when my husband was trying to turn into the parking lot and another driver raced up to the intersection and cut past him from the opposite corner, shouting and gesturing at us as he drove by. I waved and smiled. My husband gunned the engine as though to rear-end him.


So there I was, stuck in traffic yesterday and thinking that this was an ultimate test of patience. What could I do? I couldn't blink myself out of there. But I did have a choice. I could fume and worry about the precious daylight I was burning. I could beat myself up for ever leaving the house. I could direct my anger at the giant truck that was blocking my view.

I would have made one or all of these choices in the past. In the short run, it would have helped me vent frustration and take back some sense of control. But in the long run?

In the long run I would have finally arrived at work angry and exhausted from all that negative energy. I would have difficulty focusing and getting down to work. I would affect the people around me with my no-good very bad mood.

This last piece is something that road ragers fail to recognize in their quest to get even or save face or show how tough and important they are. Everything they do affects other people. Did these drivers realize that other people were on the road that day? Did they think that their reckless behavior could have killed an innocent person? And where did the anger leave them? Hospitalized. On the run from police.

When we dehumanize others, we justify violence and lose a piece of our souls. Instead of viewing the cars on the road as barriers to our self-important egos, we need to remember that there are people in there just trying to live their lives, to earn a living, to arrive safely to people they care about. They are just like us.

Sitting in my car yesterday, I thought of those people around me. We were all stuck. We all had somewhere to go. Turning up the talk radio, I continued to shuffle along, enjoying the break in the action and feeling grateful that my car was reliable and warm.

In the long run? I made the best of a crummy situation. I wrote a blog about it that may help others be more patient.

Blessings to your next journey and test of patience.

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