“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.” -Buddha
There are so many problems in the world that I cannot even begin fathoming how to solve. Systematic discrimination? Global warming? Human trafficking? These issues, and many others, are far beyond the scope of my comprehension.
That’s because conflicting interests and scarce resources force us to make difficult decisions from time to time: who’s it going to be, me or you? Temptation and short shortsightedness cause us to screw our future selves over: people procrastinate, avoid exercising as if it were equivalent to torture, and cheat in relationships. These are complicated issues that have no easy answer.
But, I do have a fool-proof solution to one problem, and it comes with no negative consequences whatsoever: your mood during your commute. Road rage (n. anger and aggressive behavior by a driver who is upset by how another person is driving*) is pointless. It only negatively impacts you. Don’t have it.
Impossible, you say? There are so many idiot drivers on the road who deserve my anger and frustration, you say? Traffic is the absolute worst, you say?
Let me lay out a scenario for you. Someone zooms by you and cuts off the long line of traffic you are sitting in. Either:
A. This person feels justified in what he or she did
B. This person made a mistake (perhaps didn’t realize the lane he or she was in was a turn only lane)
Let’s start with scenario A. This person is being an [expletive] and justifiably so, you react with anger. You honk your horn, flip him the bird, and go on a tirade to yourself (take note: to yourself) about how terrible this person is. First of all, unless you take this to the extreme and tail this person until you get to a red light so that you can hop out of your car and berate him, this person is never going to hear or see your reaction to his action. Knowing that, now ponder how your angry reaction affects you and anyone else in the car with you (hint – it’s not good). Even if this driver does catch a glimpse of your angry, red-faced rant in his rear-view mirror, he is going to assume it is because you are an irrational [expletive], not him. That is the nature of humanity; we are only capable of judging situations from our own perspective. By definition, this driver feels justified in what he did. Your anger will not cause him to change his evil, line-cutting ways. Some people drive like [expletives], and from their point of view, they are driving efficiently. Unless you miraculously get the opportunity to sit down with him and logically explain why his driving is the worst (which probably wouldn’t even make a difference anyways), there is nothing you can do to change his driving habits.
Now, scenario B. The person made a mistake. Have you ever made a mistake while driving? Case closed. And a side note – if you happened to yell at/flip off/do anything beyond a light tap on your horn towards someone like me who has a full on fear of making anyone angry, you probably just made this person cry. Congratulations.
Now that we have established that this is not a productive behavior while driving, how can we improve? I know it’s not easy to break this habit. So, I made a list of things that you can do instead to cope with
one of the most poorly designed city in the US’s Atlanta’s traffic; all are far more productive than allowing yourself to descend into a blind rage at the cars around you:
1. Avoid driving during rush hour whenever possible (which, unfortunately, can mind-blowingly sometimes include 3 pm on a Sunday on the downtown connector)
In situations where that is unavoidable, try the following…
2. Listen to music (extra points if you belt out the words). I made a “Windows Down” playlist that always makes me smile:
3. Listen to stand up comedy
4. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while to catch up
5. Laugh at the people around you who are driving terribly and assume that karma will catch up to them
Most importantly, try this experiment:
6. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, honk and then take a deep breath. Let them know you think they were in the wrong, but don’t get worked up about it. This person is not the spawn of Satan. They did not just murder your children. They’re just another human being, trying to cope with the same traffic as you.
And for god’s sake, do not be the person who feels so entitled that you think you deserve to cut off an entire line of traffic. If you are, don’t be surprised when you accidentally cut off your boss one day.
*Credit to Merriam-Webster online edition
This Week’s Highs
1. Two nights of stand-up comedy
2. Lake days (which are, without doubt, the best days)
3. Marble slab ice-cream (cake batter ice-cream with brownies, twix, and chocate syrup in a waffle cone) – PSA: the invention of Froyo may have caused you to forgot how amazing real ice-cream is
4. Dinner with a close friend who I haven’t seen in a while (and somehow getting lucky with two glasses of wine on the house)
5. Picnics and walks in the park
This Week’s Lows
1. Learning that I have sciatica
2. Having a friend ask, “Oh my gosh, Erin, do you have a drinking problem? Is everything ok?” after she read last week’s blog, which immediately made me think “[Expletive]. Everyone who read that may think I’m an alcoholic.” So, I would like to clarify – I do not have a drinking problem (although I suppose that depends on the eye of the beholder), but am trying to drink less due to high blood pressure and generally wanting to be healthier.
3. Finding out that what I have thought was “full proof” my entire life is actually “fool proof”, thanks to my friend who edited this post for me