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Moving Violations

I had an unusual experience on the road recently. Was driving along minding my own, when a large SUV flew out of a parking lot and cut me off, causing me to slam on my brakes, etc. Sadly, this is not the unusual part. As the SUV turned into the lane, they had to slam on THEIR brakes as there was a truck stopped in the lane to turn left. Not in the turn lane mind you, but the lane lane. Again, not the unusual part. The SUV driver, of course, availed themself of their horn. Once all was clear, we got to the next intersection, which has two left turn lanes, which allowed me to pull alongside the SUV. Rather than pull all the way forward, I stopped to express my displeasure with the driver. Again, sadly not unusual. I did not use hand gestures (ok, that IS unusual, but not my point), but simply mouthed the now-ubiquitous “REALLY?!?” Get this. The driver rolled down their window. And APOLOGIZED. No. Seriously. It happened. She made some gesticulations which translated that she was late getting back to work from her lunch and…APOLOGIZED again. I made gestures indicating acceptance of the apology and then…WE. BOTH. MOVED. ON. Crazy, huh?!?

There’s a lot to be said for an apology. If sincere, and I do believe the other driver was sincere, as was my acceptance, it does a lot to diffuse a situation. It also allows for that moving on process. Something that no one in Washington seems willing to do. Of course, it’s not just Washington, better scribes than I have described the me-first-gimme-gimmes in which an entire society is now entrenched. In the immortal words of Louise Sawyer, “you get what you settle for.” The chicanery in Washington is no more and no less than a reflection of the people who produce it. Uneducated voters produce uncouth representatives. And just to be clear, by uneducated, I mean about the candidates and the issues, not unschooled. Most voters FEEL so rushed that they will vote for the loudest ad or, worse yet, straight party line. I say FEEL rather than ARE, because it’s just that. We all still get twenty-four hours in each and everyday, but our choices in how we spend that time impose (sometimes) great restrictions.

This rushing has helped to create a society in which everyone feels that their time is more valuable than anyone else’s. We’ve all seen the results: whether it’s the person who cuts you off in traffic or the one who cuts in front of a long line with “I just have a question,” as though that is not the reason everyone else is in line. I’m not sure, but I almost feel as this may be some kind of competitive impulse. It seemed to arise around the same time that NASCAR became more than just a pastime for under-toothed, over-sauced rural enthusiasts. I’m not ready just yet, however, to blame Jeff Gordon for the downfall of American society as we know it. Kyle Busch, perhaps, but that’s another story…

So, regardless of how we got here, the question remains: how do we get back to civility? How do we culturally get back to a situation in which a heartfelt apology is a sign of strength, rather than weakness? Our friends from the East might have something to say about this (no, not NYC, THE East). There is a lot to be said for slowing down and living in the moment. Such as when one does receive an apology, don’t blow it off with a flippant “no problem” or worse yet, “whatevs”. Take the time to listen to the apology and actually accept it sincerely. In simplest terms, that’s called positive reinforcement. If we start sincerely accepting the apologies given, and actually allow the healing of egos that comes along with that acceptance, we may start to see more apologies. If one takes the time and effort to sincerely apologize, they become more mindful of their actions. One who is more mindful of their actions, is less likely to do something for which they need to apologize.

So try it. If someone gets mad at you for something you did, apologize. And mean it. See where that gets you. Perhaps it will get you to a conversation in which anger is diffused and true communication can occur. Something not possible with a middle finger or four letter words, no matter how good that might feel at the time…

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