When I was 17, I drove all my siblings to the store to pick up some groceries. That was all fine and dandy until we hopped back in the Ford Explorer to head home. As I was exiting the parking lot, I accidentally went out the wrong way (gasp*). Instead of heading north through the parking lot lanes, I headed south. Clearly, I just missed the arrow pointing the other way. Mind you, I am still in the (half empty) parking lot.. I’m not in the middle of the road or anything, but a woman came up the correct direction in the one way lane, so I pulled over as far as I could and let her go around me. Once past me, she rolled down her window. Naïvely, I thought she was trying to tell me something was wrong with my car, like my trunk was open or something. Boy, was that a mistake! I should have ran when I got the chance. Once my window was rolled down I looked at her expectantly, and she instantly spouted off profanities and insults, telling me how dumb I was and so forth. Of course, I wanted to cry, but instead I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make a mistake, I didn’t see…” Which is when she cut me off mid-apology and retorted, “Oh you pooooor baby. You can’t see the big giant arrow pointing the other way” blah blah blah you get the point. I was left dumbfounded and rolled up the window. I was honestly crushed. I didn’t mean to make a mistake, and I didn’t even get close to hurting somebody, but for some reason the opportunity seemed exciting to the woman, and she took the chance to hurt me emotionally.
Is it just me, or do people love yelling and screaming and cussing and flipping each other off when they’re driving? People are different when they are behind the wheel. They are on edge, ready to pounce on anybody who crosses them. It’s almost like as soon as we get into the car, we put on this mask, changing us from civilized human beings, to defensive victims. Instantly, everybody else is out to get us. Suddenly, nobody else has a life beyond the road. We characterize everyone as stupid drivers, who obviously don’t have a brain and are obviously jerks because they cut us off on the freeway entrance.
We stop seeing people as people when we’re driving. Maybe the security of the car makes us feel like we can bully other people without them being able to lash back. Or we like knowing we can flip them off and speed away and then laugh at the sad losers who totally had that coming. I don’t know. I just really don’t like it. I’ll admit it, I make mistakes on the road. I do dumb stuff out there sometimes! But that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot or a jerk, and it definitely doesn’t mean I was trying to ruin your day or kill you or something.
Now, I am not blameless here. I, too, have had negative thoughts about people cutting me off and doing silly things on the road. But I think this is a behavior that really needs to stop. We are all better than this. We don’t have to be rude to people on the road. We can be kind, acknowledge they made a mistake move on. Maybe they just had a really long day a work. Maybe their kids are fighting in the back seat. Maybe they just failed a test at school. Or maybe, just maybe, they literally didn’t see you and messed up on accident. Either way, nobody likes to be yelled at.
Let me just ask this, if your loved one was the person who made a mistake while driving, would you do your best to hit them where it hurts and make them feel less than? NO! You’d feel horrible. You would just laugh about their mistake together over a cup of hot chocolate and get on with more important topics- like Gilmore Girls or Pokemon. So why degrade a stranger?
So, I guess what I’m saying is, let’s all do our best to make the road a happier place to be. Let’s do our best to be safe out there, BUT if someone makes a mistake, give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not have everyone cowering behind their windshield, trying desperately not to make eye contact with people after making a slight error. Let’s just, you know, be nice.
You control your happiness and that starts with making your environment uplifting!
So my challenge to You is Threefold:
- Don’t use your car as a mask. See people as people and be nice.
- If you make a mistake and someone yells at you, don’t worry too much. Think nice thoughts about them and move on.
- Be happy today!