By Scott Taylor
No, I didn’t misspell that. I must say, with as much humility as I can muster, I’m one of the best spellers I’ve ever met (insert self-congratulatory emoji here). I know the difference between “brake” and “break” (too bad several people selling bikes and trucks on Craigslist don’t).
In this case the “brake” I’m referring to is the stopping mechanism on your car, which I hope is in tip-top shape if you’re going to tailgate me with your nose so far up my ass you can smell the patchouli on my neck.
You may ask yourself, “What does this have to do with Buddhist teaching?” (Or, if you’re driving with David Byrne, you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile and you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”) Well, the daily stress of navigating a speeding hunk of steel through those going more slowly than us (idiots, according to George Carlin) and those going faster than us (people with license plates from Washington, Alberta and, of course, California) can be an opportunity for us to look at things from a different perspective, and thus choose to experience empathy — or sympathy — rather than stress or anger.
I was once toodling along in my Outback (my grandma used to use that term; I often toodle along when I’m driving) on my way to visit my dad in the hospital 40 miles away, when a lady driving a big sedan closed in on me — apparently estimating that the stopping distance between two vehicles traveling 60 miles per hour was less than 12 inches. I’m pretty sure I could hear Bob Seger playing on her radio.
We were on a two-lane stretch of highway so her chances of passing were few and far between, but that didn’t keep her from positioning herself to take advantage of every inch should one arise. She followed me like this for five miles or so.
Baffled, worried and quite annoyed, I tried slowing down so she might take a chance and zip around me (or maybe it was just to piss her off; I wasn’t studying Buddhism then). I gave her the old “brake check,” hoping the sight of red lights would cause her to back off. She was undeterred. Finally, out of frustration, I threw my hands up in a “WTF is your issue?” gesture that she couldn’t miss.
Finally, we came to a four-lane section and she sped around me with an extremely worried and urgent expression on her face, and it was then that I realized that she might be headed the same place I was: the hospital. It dawned on me that she might have a loved one who was at that moment clinging to life in the ER.
So, rather than unleash a hateful, vulgar epithet toward her, I cheered her on and wished her a safe arrival. Of course she never heard my kind words so they didn’t help her, but they sure made me feel better.
Try to remember: We all have somewhere we need to be — even if it’s just to beat everyone to the next stoplight — and nobody else knows our reasons or destination. We can choose to be pissed off and full of road rage, or we can choose to be happy. Choose happy!
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