Imagine you’re walking down a crowded sidewalk. Someone juts in front of you, causing you to take a quick stutter step.
The person in front keeps walking, faster than you. No apologies or acknowledgement of their close call.
Chances are you’re going to jump all over them. Walk right behind them, while loudly telling the guy what a lousy son of a bitch he is and flippin’ the bird.
I bet you’d walk alongside him, yelling at him about what a shitty walker he is.
You’ll probably run to get in front of him, then abruptly stop walking. Show that rat bastard you mean business on the sidewalk!
You’d do all these things, right?
Then why in the hell are you doing things like that in your car?
My Tale of Rage
I drove like this for years. I was the guy who sped up to keep you from changing into my lane. I was the guy who gunned it at stoplights, only to get caught in the next one.
I once followed an older woman 10 miles past my destination just because she veered into my lane and flipped me off when I honked at her. Yeah she was a moron, but my actions made me one too.
For several years I had long commutes, and the battle royales on the road would leave me exhausted before I even got to my desk.
I had to win. I had to speed past the other cars, keep everyone from pulling out in front of me, and on occasion do the good service of casually cutting off a car driving more recklessly than I.
Then I read a story about a man shooting another during a road rage argument. Then another several days later.
And I pictured myself being shot for brake-checking some redneck. Leaving my wife and child alone because someone rolled through the stop sign before their turn.
Which led me to think, “Why in the hell do I drive like this?”
Drive Like Grandpa
I decided to do a 40-day challenge around the topic. Much like my positivity pledge, for 40 days I would drive the speed limit and stay in the slow lane unless it was going far slower than the limit.
The first couple days were brutal. I gave into the temptation to whip around people and fly at 15-over for a bit.
But then it got easier.
I stopped looking in my rearview mirror all the time. I started actually listening to what the sports talk guys were saying.
I had more energy when I got to work, and was refreshed upon arriving back home.
Best of all, driving the speed limit and staying in one lane like your grandpa cost me less than two minutes on average.
That’s right. The difference between driving like drunken ape and an elderly man was less than two minutes in a 30 minute commute.
Don’t Let Morons Bait You Into Being a Moron
I continue to drive in the same manner today. One lane, as far to the right and as long as possible, going the speed limit, and letting morons drive like morons.
People fly by me. But I arrive at my destination every day, safe and ready to get on with life.
Occasionally a car will cut me off or not let me merge, and I’ll briefly give into temptation and ride their ass for a bit.
But then the inner monologue (largely developed by meditation) wakes up, and calmly says, “Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? Is this who you want to be? Would you act like this if you weren’t in the safe anonymity of your vehicle?”
Then, I gently ease back into my lane, and let the other car speed ahead to rage elsewhere. (I do root for them to get pulled over and it feels great when they actually do.)
I listen to podcasts now, and try to engage different parts of my brain. On occasion I’ll just record myself talking into a dictation app to get a jumpstart on a piece of writing.
I love driving now.
I had to win the commute.
Except there is nothing to win.
There’s no prize for the guy who pulls up to the office faster than his coworkers.
No hot babes are going to fling themselves at you for leaving that Hyundai in the dust at the stoplight.
There are no cash prizes given out to the car who makes it to the lane merge point first.
In fact, dumb, aggressive driving costs more. Rapid acceleration and driving faster reduce your mileage and beat up your engine. And you’re going to get in more wrecks, or at least get more tickets.
You don’t win. You lose. You lose money and you lose the opportunity to start and end your day with a helluva lot less stress.
Try it for one day.
Tomorrow, hop in your car at your usual time. Maybe two minutes early, if you want to nitpick.
Drive the speed limit. Stay in one lane.
Put on something calm or thoughtful. An audiobook, podcast, Norah Jones, whatever keeps your boat from capsizing.
Don’t pay attention to anything except that which directly affects you. Don’t worry about the cars zipping by going 20 over the speed limit. They’re irrelevant.
See if it feels any different when you get to your destination. You’ll feel like you were let in on some ancient secret. You’ll feel like you won, I promise.