Yesterday I’m driving to work along the usual route, a four-lane road with a speed limit of fifty-five for most of it. It’s fairly busy, but not so busy that I can’t enjoy the ride…until THAT PERSON gets in my way. You know THAT PERSON, don’t you? The one driving 50 mph in the left lane…commonly known as the passing lane.
Often there are signs that encourage “slower traffic move to the right lane” or something similar. None of those appear along this stretch of road. But they appear for a good reason…the unwritten rule of four-lane roads is that the left lane is for passing while the right lane is for cruising. “Just go around them in the right lane,” you probably say. Often I do this. But that breaks the system, and since many of the people driving in the right lane do so because they prefer to go slower and aren’t in a hurry, it can be dangerous.
Not everyone knows these “unwritten” rules. I get that. Doesn’t stop me from becoming upset, though. Yesterday I got upset. I used several unkind epithets to vent my anger. I flashed my lights and the vehicle ahead of me slowed down. So I impatiently waited for enough room to clear in the right lane and went around them, hurling insults at them as I did.
Then, in one of those Zen moments that sometimes just fall on me, I began examining myself and my behavior. Why would I allow someone else to affect my temperament and, worst of all, my health, over such a silly thing? Yes, I got angry. But why? Because the person in front of me wasn’t doing things the way I wanted them done? Then I laughed. It was all my ego. Sure, it’s “common courtesy” to move over and let people pass…but some people didn’t get that memo. And even if they are just being rude or mean…why should that affect me? Rage can be deleterious to one’s health. It can cause heart attacks and high blood pressure, which leads to strokes. Why would I allow that in myself?
The best way to teach “common” courtesy is to model it, not only reciprocally but when others are rude. Especially when others are not particularly courteous. Rage fosters rage and kindness fosters kindness. Rage harms everyone and helps no one.
Yes, it’s much easier to write about than to practice it. And it’s much easier to encourage this behavior when you’re not in the middle of an incident where someone is being rude, selfish, unkind or mean to you. But hey, practice is the only way to get better at it.
So I made myself a promise. Every time I get in my vehicle from now on, I will say a prayer and a mantra. The prayer is, “Grant me serenity and remind me to be kind regardless of the circumstances,” and the mantra is, “Kindness begets kindness.”
Let’s all get together and be kind to one another, whattaya think?