The road to heaven begins in the slow lane

I like to run lights that are just barely red. I only use my turn signal if inspiration strikes. I’m of the opinion that slow drivers in the left lane deserve to be tailgated. And I’d fight to the death over an unlimited parking space.

Okay, okay, so that’s all an exaggeration. Well, most of it is. Usually. But I’ve come to notice as I’ve morphed more and more into a true Philly resident: the way that we drive says a lot about us. For instance, put me in a mess of traffic after a long day, and I will be able to answer the following questions about myself:

Am I patient?

Am I forgiving?

Do I assume the best?

Do I love my neighbor?

I’d like for the answers to all of these questions be an unequivocal yes, but I fear that wouldn’t be wholly true. There’s something to the anonymity we experience behind the wheel, as if despite our bad behavior—or even our sour attitudes—we remain inculpable. As long as we avoid an accident on the way to our destination, there’s no harm done, right?

Wrong. As much as I hate to admit it, driving brings out the worst in me. And not always, certainly. But once in a while, with a perfect storm of tiredness after a long day and desperation to be off the road and much preferable plans to get to, the worst bubbles up. It would be silly of me to assume that my attitude on the road is entirely independent from the way I live the rest of my life. Yes, but I’m nice to strangers! And I’m a good friend! And I am patient and forgiving and I do assume the best and love my neighbor…under the right circumstances. Not when I have hundreds of taillights staring me in the face, daring to inconvenience me.

But, there’s good news! The good news is, the fix is simple. It’s just a combination of little choices, made over and over, that sharpen my will and produce virtue. It’s slowing down, leaving room, letting that car in ahead of me. It’s taking my eyes off my phone, off the clock, and gluing them on the road. It’s remembering that there is a person behind every wheel—perhaps one who, like me, has had a long day. Who’s aching to return home. Who I’d very possibly want to be friends with. Or at least friendly acquaintances.

It’s a good challenge, I think. A challenge to laugh off the bizarre (yes, bizarre!) behavior of Philly drivers instead of gripping the steering wheel with a vengeance and muttering under my breath. A challenge to confront the weaknesses I think I’m free of. A challenge, ultimately, to love.

Won’t you join me?




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