Anybody who knows me very well knows my complete lack of patience for traffic. Okay, it’s not traffic that bothers me. Traffic is an inanimate entity, the result of several contributing factors. As such, it can’t be blamed for its effect on the surrounding world. So traffic isn’t really the problem. It’s all those other people on the road.
My pastor used to love reading my weekly column, and several times he worked me into his sermon with a friendly jab at what he considered a mild case of road rage. That’s a pretty harsh term, don’t you think? If only he knew.
I should set the stage by saying I don’t mind sharing the road. We all have someplace to go. I just wish a few more people would go someplace else and take some friends with them. I’m not talking about everybody. Just the inconsiderate jerks who think their time is more valuable than everybody else’s.
You know the people I’m talking about. The ones who drive past a line of fifty cars at a freeway exit and force their way in at the front of the line, giving you the finger as they try to take off your front bumper. The people who weave in and out of traffic, lights flashing and horn blowing, just to be next in line at the McDonald’s drive-thru. And the ones who pass on the right because you’re not going fast enough, then jump in front of you and slam on the brakes because there’s a cop ahead. By the time he looks up to see what’s going on, they’re all nice and innocent and you get a ticket for tailgating.
Wow, that spilled out way too easily! But let’s face it, even for a die-hard humorist like me, inconsiderate drivers can present some challenges. It’s hard to find a lot to laugh about when you’re playing a game of vehicular rugby.
But one day several years ago, I knew I had to change. I came to this realization as I sat in a line of stopped traffic with my door open to keep people from squeezing between my truck and the concrete barricade that officially ended the left lane a quarter-mile behind us, with a 20-ounce claw hammer in my lap, just waiting for an excuse to fling it through somebody’s back window. I wish I was making this up.
But the thing is, no amount of anger on my part ever changed one person’s driving habits. The same drivers are out there today, driving exactly the same way. All I did was raise my blood pressure and make bad matters worse. On the plus side, I did get some exercise. By the time I quit that job, I could lift nine pounds with my middle finger.
So when I hit the road as a comedian, I made a commitment to myself that I would be more patient in traffic. Whenever possible, I took back roads instead of the freeway. I started listening to comedy on my satellite radio. And I used the time in stopped traffic to rehearse new material for my next show. If nothing else, the sight of me sitting in my truck talking to myself gave everybody else something to laugh about. At least I made their day.
If you were waiting for me to tell you how I laugh my way through heavy traffic, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Even I haven’t found much to laugh about there. But since I learned to find humor in the other areas of my life, things like traffic just don’t bother me as much. I’ve learned to keep things in perspective, and to more graciously accept the things I just can’t change. And I’ve also learned a couple of really cute non-verbal gestures that are a lot more respectable than extending the middle finger, but send pretty much the same message. Hey, I’m making progress.
I doubt I’ll ever look forward to a nice rush-hour commute, and I doubt I’ll ever find much tolerance for people who somehow feel a greater sense of entitlement to the road we’re destined to share. But I’m thankful I’ve learned to laugh at some of life’s other distractions more often. It’s made the drive a lot less stressful. And on those rare occasions when I do give someone the finger, I do it with a smile. That should be worth something.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon