Sunday, August 9, 2009

Frustrations on the Road

More than a few of you have mentioned to me about the frustrations you have when driving on the road. So, I thought I would give you a different perspective that will help you deal with road frustrations or road rage. It is not only my perspective, but I draw from wise men and other sources of wisdom (sent my way by God.)

"Do you know what I do? When someone wants to get ahead of me in traffic –when I used to be able to drive- I would raise my hand… I would raise my hand, as if I was going to make a negative gesture, and then I would wave and smile. Instead of giving them the finger, you let them go, and you smile. You know what? A lot of times they smiled back. The truth is, I don't have to be in that much of a hurry with my car. I would rather put my energies into people." -Professor Morrie Schwartz (in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.)

Although Morrie wasn't Christian, this is a Christ-like quality he had. He shone light in situations of darkness, and spread the light to others. This was what Jesus taught and was how Jesus lived. When you shine a light on the darkness of others, the darkness disappears. When you wave and smile (an action of the light) rather than give the finger (an action of darkness), the others are more likely to wave back. I believe we've all experienced this when we smile at someone, they will naturally smile back. When you bring light in the presence of darkness , the darkness cannot remain.

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." –Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

There's really no use of getting angry on the road. Your anger will not make the bad drivers drive better (and we all know that "I am always the good driver. I've never made a driving mistake in my life. It's everybody else who are the bad drivers.") Instead, your anger will make the situation more dangerous for you, for them, and for everyone else on the road.

"So that little old lady who's driving in front of you at 20 miles per hour with that 1976 Cadillac (cream colored). You've all seen her. She's everywhere… She could hardly see over her steering wheel. And she signed an oath…that she will drive aimlessly around… testing your ability to deal with her. She's like a test. She's like a gift from God. Once you stop being mad at her for being what she is or who she is and what she's about…when you stop the anger and bitterness at who she is, and understand that SHE'S EXACTLY WHERE SHE'S SUPPOSED TO BE. And she's there to teach you a very important lesson: slow down. You have to. Relax. DON'T GIVE HER CONTROL OVER THE [GODLY] PART OF YOU ... It's still there, and it's yours. It's really what constitutes your entire humanity. Don't give it away. Think of yourself as connected to [God and all His creations] and a part of it all, rather than [as] someone who is victimized, or slowed down, or abused by, or "here it happens again". It's all part of the perfection of it all. That's a very nice enlightening place to get to. It really slows you down, and it doesn't take away your ability to make choices. It takes away your WANTING THE WORLD AS YOU WANT IT TO BE instead of as IT IS. That's what defines "neurotic". That's what "neurotic" really means: to be wanting the world as you are, rather than as it is. [You need to] process it exactly as it is. It's just in how you perceive it and how you choose to process it. If you see everybody as a teacher, then you ask yourself, "What do I have to learn here?" In that second that you're just about to be angry and go around, and maybe… [about to] have a head on collision. Maybe at that moment, that person is there. That person is there to teach you to slow down a little bit." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

The key is to accept the fact that we (humans) all are not perfect, especially in our driving. We have to accept that the slow old lady driver will always be out there. We have to accept the fact that there will always be the "fast and the furious" drivers out there. To make the roads a safer place, we first have to really look OBJECTIVELY and HONESTLY at ourselves to make sure that we are not that slow old lady driver, and also not that "fast and the furious" driver. Secondly, we have to be Jesus-like and accept everyone else for their imperfection (or their imperfect driving). We must compensate for their imperfection with our defensive driving. It would not be wise to feed anger into a dangerous situation when you encounter the "slow old lady" or "the fast and the furious".

A study has been done, where they split drivers into 2 groups. Group A were the "fast and the furious" drivers weaving in and out of lanes to get to their destination as fast as they could. Group B drove at 5-10 mph above speed limit keeping one steady speed. The results of the studies showed that Group A arrived at the destination ONLY 1-3 minutes (average) before group B.

I personally replicated this study when I was living in the Bay Area. I had a friend, Anthony (not his real name). Anthony is the only person I know who always drive at the speed limit. One night, we were both driving from point A (in San Francisco, CA) to point B (in San Leandro, CA). I drove as fast as I could, trying my best to get around cars. When I got to point B, it was LESS THAN ONE MINUTE before Anthony pulled up behind me!

These are facts backed up by studies and by my individual case study. Even though we may FEEL like we are getting to our destination much faster, the fact is that we only get there 1-3 minutes faster when we jet it. Are those 1-3 minutes really worth putting your life at risk and other people's lives at risk? Are those 1-3 minutes really worth raising your stress level and blood pressure (therefore deteriorating your health)?

Driving too slow is also dangerous. Although I brought up the example of my friend Anthony who always drive the speed limit, I do not recommend driving at the speed limit. I believe driving at the speed limit is too slow and therefore dangerous (especially when we know that there will always be someone driving 90mph in a 55mph zone). I think it is best to drive 5 to 10 mph ABOVE THE SPEED LIMIT (in normal dry conditions) and try to keep it steady at that speed (with the exception of freeways with speed limits of 70mph or above. In those cases, I would do just the speed limit or no more than 5 over the speed limit.)

I, of course, am not the perfect driver. So if you see me make a mistake in my driving (if I start driving again), I have a few letters for you: PBPGINFWMY (Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet).

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  1. George Carlin once said anyone who's driving slower than him is an idiot. Anyone driving faster is a maniac. That's pretty much how it is for all of us. We need to go outside of our perspective and realize each person around us has a reason for what they're doing and try not to control what others do. Besides, maybe if we have to slow down to be behind that old lady for a while, it will give us time to slow our minds down and think about things for a few minutes. We don't always have to rush rush rush.

  2. Nice post Shu! Thank you for the reminders!

    Eric Beard

  3. Stephanie, I totally agree. We're on the same page.

    Eric, thank you. By the way, I've looked through some of the exercise information you have on the web (including the videos.) Great information!