The Spiritual Nature of Your Daily Commute
“Look at this idiot…” Mike changed lanes. The sound of the indicator was too loud as he pressed the brakes, slowing the sedan. We wouldn’t look too good mashed against the rear grill of an expensive pickup. The vehicle that had been on his bumper with flashing headlights sped past and moments later a hail of stones and dust clattered on the windscreen.
I could see Mike was seething. With white knuckles on the wheel and a vein pulsing in his jaw the string of expletives he let loose left no doubts about the nature and character of the driver who had just passed.
“Every day it’s the same,” he growled. “These people have no idea of…”
“What if it was an emergency?”
My interjection was met with a sneer. “Emergency? He’s late for a coffee break?”
“His emergency lights were flashing…”
Mike popped a piece of gum into his mouth. “Well, maybe he had an emergency to go to but…”
I was pressed into my seat as the four litres of German engineering propelled us into the fast lane again. For the tenth time I checked that my seatbelt was secured. “Do you ever look at the driver, or do you just see the car?”
“I mean, when you pass cars or they pass you, do you ever look into the car to see the face of the person driving it, or is it just another car that passes and poisons you?”
“Poisons me?” Mike glanced at me. One bushy eyebrow was up.
“Somewhere I read that road-rage is like poisoning yourself and hoping the other person will die.”
“Yeah? Well I read somewhere that drinking alcohol is bad for you, so I stopped reading.”
I didn’t laugh.
“No, I don’t look at the driver. I watch the cars. When I’m approaching I keep a wary eye on the left front tyre. That normally indicates the intention of the driver, or at least the direction the car will go if the idiot is busy texting.”
“The driver in the car that passed us was an older man. He had a white beard. His car was pretty old too. I’d imagine he hasn’t pushed that car like that for a while.”
“Imagining is not evidence for a claim. You can’t prove that.”
“Sure, but each person on this highway is just like us.”
“What?” Mike spat the word. “No way. These people have no idea how to drive. Look, do you see…”
“Everybody is just trying to get home, Mike, or somewhere they need to be. Maybe that older man needed to be at the hospital for some reason. Think about it. If you knew he had to tend an injured family member, would you let him through?”
“Of course, but you don’t know that.”
“You don’t know his circumstances. You don’t know if he’s charging to the hospital or if he’s just another entitled asshole who thinks you own the road. Either way, you don’t know. So why do you assume the latter? You only end up arriving home, feeling bad.”
Mike grunted. He was irritable, so I kept my peace, returning to the book in my lap.
“I went to church last week.”
“And?” I turned the page slowly. Mike was not usually one to attend church.
“The pastor, minister dude said that when we pray for patience, God gives us opportunities to practice patience.”
“I’m sure she does.”
Mike grimaced at me. We have the kind of relationship where he plays practical jokes on me and I tease him about being religious. “The highway is full of opportunities to practice patience, and forgiveness, too, don’t you think?”
The indicator came on and our vehicle gracefully moved into the middle lane. An enormous SUV thundered past.
“Don’t you get riled up when you drive on this highway?”
“Of course,” I replied. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t yet have Sith powers.”
“So how do you deal with…”
“I listen to audiobooks. I listen to music. Sometimes I just drive and get lost in a meditative state. When some other driver upsets me I try to remember that he’s also human. Maybe he’s like you and can’t see the frailty for the metal.”
“Ouch.” Mike chuckled. “Okay, Confucious, so you like to arrive at home a better person than when you left. I get it, but it’s you against the world, man…”
I closed my book. Our exit was approaching and Mike would drop me off on the corner of my street in a few minutes. “I’m not sure that’s accurate, Mikey.”
“What do you mean?”
“Every moment of adversity is an opportunity for you to be a better you. If you see it as an opportunity then it’s the ‘world’ working with you, as opposed to against you.”
We had stopped in the long queue on the highway exit. The traffic light ahead was red, the traffic itself was jammed, yet the car behind us was honking his horn. Mike checked the rear-view mirror, sighed, then shrugged. “Perhaps, you’re right.”
Some minutes later Mike stopped at the curb and I climbed out. From here it was a short walk home. I thanked him, shut the door and he drove off. I watched the German insignia turn the corner and it occurred to me that, perhaps, the driver had, too.