Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cake on the front seat

Many years ago, I was an occasional traveller down the coast for my university work. My Supervisor would give me a lift and I was struck by how careful and calm a driver he was. Never any frustration, never an offhand remark about the terrible habits other drivers had. Behind the wheel he assumed an almost zen-like state, focused, but at peace with his surroundings and the other people on the road.

When I asked him how he managed to remain so relaxed when surrounded by idiots, he said "I treat every other vehicle as a semi-random moving object".

His influence didn't rub off.

I get bothered by people driving badly.

However a few years back, my friend said to me something along the lines of, "you never know if the person driving slowly in front of you has a birthday cake in the passenger seat", and that got me thinking.

Back 10+ years ago, my regular afternoon/evening drive included a journey up a steep hill. It was a winding hill and despite having a long lead in to the hill, the base of which was just begging for a bit of a rev in order the get up the damned thing, the Ford Laser inevitably slowed to about 15-20km/h half way up. Each night, tired after a long drive and a day at work, I'd reach the top of this hill with about half a dozen cars behind me. Fed up, anxious to be home and unsympathetic to the gutlessness of the car I was driving. It was a slow, unsatisfying trip.

Nobody cared. They were annoyed. I was slowing them down.

So why have I ever been anything other than understanding of others in the same situation?
Maybe their car is a bit shit, maybe they have a crying kid in the back, maybe they've had a stressful day...maybe they have a cake on the front seat and they're trying not to ruin it by driving like an idiot.

It's easy to think the worst when you are inconvenienced.

Since this conversation, if I do the wrong thing on the road, cut someone off, miss a turn and try to squeeze in where I shouldn't, drive too slowly because I'm carrying too much weight in my gutless car, or indeed, am transporting a cake, I always smile and acknowledge the other driver. Whether it is to apologise for some awful driving or to thank them for giving me a pass for my actions, I have found that I always get a forgiving wave or understanding smile in return.

I now also do the same for people doing the same thing as me.

I can't know why someone does the wrong thing, I'm sure their intent isn't to be a bad driver, but we all make mistakes.

Just for a moment, consider your mind as the driver of your body. You, the fleshy you, are a vehicle for your mind. Everyone else in the world, has the same sort of vehicle and looks out of it the same way you are looking through your eyes right now. How you see, that's how we all see.

We sometimes make mistakes, go a bit slow, do the wrong thing, say things we didn't mean to, things that upset or frustrate.

Perhaps we are being idiots, deliberately hurtful and upsetting, completely deserving of criticism like the person behind the wheel, perhaps we should know better...or perhaps...in our heads, as the drivers of the vehicles we were born in...perhaps we have our own cake on the front seat.

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