More often than not I drive to work on the back roads to avoid as much of the gridlock around my city as possible. Yesterday was no exception. As I’m driving, doing almost forty five in a thirty mile per hour zone on a semi-windy two lane road, I noticed I was being tailgated by a decent size SUV. Now if I know I’m being a slow poke for whatever reason, I’ll pull over to let the tailgater pass. But in this situation, there was a line of cars about 200 yards ahead of me that were driving roughly the same speed I was and I was. Pulling over to let him pass It wouldn’t have gotten him any further ahead, and plus I was not driving so damn slow that he should be practically sitting in my back seat. Well before I knew what had happened he pulled into the lane for oncoming traffic so that he could pass me. Let me be clear. This was rush hour, there were cars coming in the opposite direction, and he had to cross a double yellow line to make this happen. It’s not like we were on some rural flat farm route where passing in the other lane is allowed and expected. It was an unsafe move.
For just a minute I was really angry. Who did this guy think he was? How did it help him to now be fifty feet in front of me instead of behind me? What gave him the right to put not only himself, but me and any person that could have hit him head on, in harms way? Did he really think he was that much more important than me that he couldn’t exercise just a little bit of patience in rush hour traffic? What an ass. When I saw that he was trapped behind the line of cars ahead of me I felt a sense of vindicated satisfaction. “A ha ha, asshole that’s what you get!” And for a moment I really wanted to flip him off.
But then I wondered what good that would do. How did me being angry at him make any difference? It wasn’t going to change the fact that he’d cut me off and been an ass. It wasn’t even going to affect him or his day. I couldn’t teach him anything, I couldn’t get anything out of being angry. My anger would only serve to rile me up when I was stuck in a car for an hour, probably putting me in a bad mood before I even got to work.
Plus, I thought about what would make me do the same thing this guy did. The only situation i could come up with would be some sort of life and death emergency. And then I found myself hoping that everything was okay in this man’s life. What If his child was being brought to the hospital as we shared this windy back road or his mother had passed away and he was trying to get home to her or even if he had a mega presentation at work that he was late for because his power went out? Would I want to flip him off then? Would I want to laugh in his face then? Probably not. I would have felt for him and wished that his day got better from here. The list of possibilities of why this man was driving like a bat out of hell are endless. Let’s be honest, chances are he was just being a douchebag, but at the end of the day, even if that were the case, who am I to judge? I didn’t get hurt. I wasn’t late for work because of it. Who am I to even care?
I find that we waste so much time being angry at other people because we assume we know how they think and feel. I could have assumed that this person was the biggest asshole I’d ever come across. I could have been right. But I also could have been wrong. He could be the worlds most patient and conscientious driver every other day of the year and In the moment he could have been a petrified father or grieving son. The fact is I have no clue. And I never will.
We have no real idea why the people around us choose the actions they do or what is going on in their brain as they choose them. This goes for the person who cuts you off in traffic, the cashier who seems to have a bad attitude, the friend who blows off your phone call, or the boss who snaps at you as she walks in the door each morning.
We have no idea what’s going on in their world.
But we judge. We post about it on social media. We relay stories about these people to our co-workers. We text our friends about it. Why? What purpose does it serve other than raise our blood pressure and stress us out even more? Don’t we have enough to worry about every day without having to play these scenarios over and over for ourselves and those around us?
I shared this on Facebook the other day:
And as I was contemplating the douchebag (slash potentially scared father slash grieving son) it popped into my mind. I forced myself to stop thinking about how angry he had made me during the brief moment his world coincided with mine. Because if I took the time and energy I spend focusing on the wrongdoings of others and put it towards something productive, imagine what I could accomplish.
I mean, I got this post out of it, so that’s a start, right?