I don’t think of myself as an angry person, but get me behind the wheel of a car and, let’s just say, it is not pretty. And God knows it. He knows it and I am pretty sure that I failed the test yesterday. Miserably.
Yesterday evening, as I was headed out to drive Emma and her BFF to the local waterpark (a reward from the school district to all middle schoolers who had been on A or A/B Honor Roll all year—WOOT WOOT Emma!), I went to make my way onto the interstate and saw an abnormal amount of traffic backed up there. I mean, off-the-hook-crazy traffic—for miles in either direction. Traffic is not unusual at that time of day, as it was around 6 PM, but this was ridiculous! We were already running late and I do not, repeat, do not, like being tardy!
SIDEBAR: I am one of those people who always seems to get in the wrong line. At the grocery store, I am in the line behind the crazy coupon lady with 100 coupons. At the DMV, I am behind the person who has some major complicated car title issue that takes 30 minutes to resolve. At the bank, I am behind the person who has 49 personal checks to deposit and they decide to fill out their deposit slip when they get to the teller window.
Such is life. I usually try to view it as, what I like to call, an “opportunity to grow”. I see these times as moments where I get to exercise my patience muscle and make a friend with the person next in line, a quality that is embarrassing to my family, I am afraid. But I try to make the best of it, and usually, in all the aforementioned situations, I must say I do pretty well. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I make a friend. I mean, you never really know what is happening behind the scenes in people’s lives, right? And so I roll with it.
All that said, I am also the person in traffic jams who gets in the lane that never. seems. to. move. For some reason, I cannot make the “benefit of the doubt” rule apply in this situation. I find myself incredibly impatient and unnervingly annoyed. Telling people, who, by the way cannot hear me, to get off my road. Asking them what in the world they are doing. Making unattractive facial expressions. Basically, everything short of swearing at them and making inappropriate hand gestures. A good Southern girl has got to draw the line somewhere. Note that I am not claiming that the occasional swear word never passes my lips. Sadly, my children can attest to that!
Intermittently, I will take deep breaths, try to sing along with a song on the ‘pod (I find Bohemian Rhapsody to be effective most of the time in these situations), pray for patience, or make conversation with the people in my vehicle. I do try. However, if the gridlock goes on long enough, I inevitably revert back to my maniacal self. I do not, however, ride people’s bumpers, honk at them, flash my headlights at them or speed around them like a NASCAR driver when there is the slightest opening. I am nothing, if not a safe driver. I am a rule follower, people! But I do feel the anger bubbling up and spilling over and I often feel like my head is about to pop off as I creep along at 5, 10, 17 MPH with no end in sight.
Such was the case yesterday. I was in the line of traffic that was at a stand still. As we crept along, because we did get to move occasionally, I felt myself getting frustrated and I started losing it, “talking” to the other drivers, knowing all the time that I could only go as fast as the driver in front of me. This is what makes it such crazy, irrational behavior.
Meanwhile, we saw quite a few motorcycles blowing past the long lines of traffic on the right shoulder, which I also find quite maddening. I mean, where does it say that motorcycles don’t have to follow the same rules of the road that the rest of us do? Motorists are harped on all the time to watch out for motorcyclists, but then when I see motorcyclists behaving so recklessly, well it just feeds my craziness. Then, the tow trucks started passing us on the right shoulder. One, two, three tow trucks. Then I knew there was something bad up ahead. I knew there had been an accident up there somewhere and I quickly said to the girls, “oh, I hope no one is hurt.” The problem then was that I had no idea of knowing where and on which side of the road and how far ahead of us the accident was and because of my location, there was no exiting, no turning around and going another way. There was only waiting. And creeping along.
Then, I saw my opening. A space widening in the left lane. I saw my chance and I took it. I eased over, rather satisfied with myself for having extricated my car from the “slow lane”. I now found myself in the “less slow, but still slow” lane. UGH, the wrong lane choice, again! At least we were moving.
Until, after an hour, having driven a distance that would normally take me less than 10 minutes, I could see the flashing lights: yellow from the tow trucks, blue from the state troopers. On the left hand side of the road. Still unable to see what was causing the gridlock, I realized that now I would have to move BACK over to the right lane because the left one was entirely blocked by emergency vehicles. A kind soul allowed me to move over. With a courtesy wave out the window, I eased over and moved on. Slowly still, annoyed still, but moving. Knowing now that we were almost past the scene and we could book it on down the highway. YES!
As we approached the scene, as if in slow motion, I looked left and could see twisted around the trees down in the woodsy median an over-turned and mangled 18-wheeler. My heart sank down and met my stomach. Suddenly, a rush of shame came over me. In my heart, I knew that whoever was in the cab was badly hurt and all the while, I had been so self-absorbed and angry and in a hurry and annoyed at my inconvenience. My inconvenience.
Message received. Loud and clear.
Yes, we were late. An hour and 15 minutes late. But we arrived at our destination. The girls were still able to enjoy the last 45 minutes of their well-earned reward. We arrived back home safely to the warmth and comfort of our home and family. According to the news, the man in the accident did not.
God, forgive me for my selfishness and my impatience. May I always remember this day. Please comfort the family of the man who died yesterday in that accident on I-26. Amen.