Perhaps the most important lesson from driving in traffic is “Don’t live your life like a driver in traffic”. I remember an old joke that if you wake up looking like the picture on your driver’s license you should go back to bed. If you start acting like the stressed and impatient person that is typically behind the wheel in traffic, you should probably go back to bed, or at least stay away from people.
Traffic is Illogical
While sitting on interstate 95 coming home from Northern VA on Father’s Day we entered a work zone. The signs said the left two lanes were closed ahead so we got into the far right lane. For the next half hour we proceeded ever so slowly as cars in the two lanes to our left passed us by. How is this possible? How is it that the lanes that are closed ahead are moving and our lane, the one that is open, is not?
The answer my friend, is blowing… by me. As with many scenarios in life, the spoils go to the pushy aggressive people. The drivers that are pushy and aggressive move up, force their way over and keep on going. The drivers who saw the sign and took the more passive route (getting over early) also take a passive stance when the pushy drivers make the move to get over, and they let it happen. Logic (and passiveness) has no place in traffic.
Traffic is Selfish
As we got closer to an exit that we knew would allow us to get out of the traffic and finish our journey home on the back roads, we got a little antsy. But, not as antsy as the people flying down the shoulder to get to the exit. With over a mile to go until the off ramp, numerous drivers took it upon themselves to drive down the shoulder and expedite their exit. Some put on their flashers and went slow enough that they could react to anyone who decided to pull off; but others decided the shoulder was the open road and ripped down the side of the interstate with no regard to safety.
I like to think at least some of these drivers were reacting to a dire need. Perhaps there was an elderly family member in the car who needed to use the bathroom. Perhaps there was a baby that needed a bottle heated. But it is hard to believe the twenty or so vehicles that breezed by (more as we got closer to the exit) were all doing so due to an emergency. I find it more likely that they were being selfish – putting themselves over the rest of us sitting in traffic.
Traffic is Annoying
It is hard to be patient when sitting in traffic for long periods. It can get to the best of us. And especially if the cause of the traffic is illogical or due to selfish drivers around you. Patience is a virtue but the interstates are not exactly the most virtuous environments. Perhaps dealing with this annoyance is a life lesson. You can’t do anything about it – you are typically “stuck in traffic”.
I think it is common to want your kids to have a better life than you. We as parents typically want to the most for our kids and we want them to succeed. When it comes to grades or sports or yardwork (a dad can dream), we want our kids to be aggressive, to do and get done. To achieve. So do we want them to be the pushy drivers? Do we want them shooting down the shoulder? Or do we want them to be courteous, plan ahead and follow the rules (and as such, be more passive)??
I believe ideally we want them to have the ability to identify when to be aggressive and when to be patent. If no one in the car is about to bust a blatter, then you don’t need to fly down the shoulder toward the exit. But if you feel you need to stand your ground or even make a land grab, you can advance down one of the lanes destined for closure and hope someone lets you merge in. Test the “give and take”, the charity of others – with appropriate expectations (there is a whole set of life lessons by themselves around expectations).
So next time you are in traffic take the time to talk to your kids about what is going on around you. Talk about patience and dealing with the various personalities you are or may be interacting with. Discuss decisions and approaches and dealing with situations where they need to decide whether to be aggressive or relaxed. Conversation is a good thing, regardless of the surroundings or topic. And what better use of being stuck in traffic than to chat?