A Moving Meditation: Driving in Houston, Staying the Course

Yesterday, I navigated a curve heading to an intersection, planning to turn left. The light was green. The car in front of me, in the left lane, was stopped with its blinker on. I had to stop. I honked. Nothing happened. The light turned red.

I’ll admit that I was a bit frustrated. I was rushing to get somewhere, and was uncharacteristically late. It did not appear that the car in front of me was having any troubles. The blinker was on, not the hazards, and the driver wasn’t making any ‘just go around me’ gestures or anything.

Almost ten years ago, I didn’t heal from a medical procedure the way most people do. The surgeon assured me that the recovery would be quick, one or two weeks. Instead, I spent nine months making weekly trips to see him, to have my recovery monitored, in the heart of the medical center, and in truth, it still gives me trouble. I learned how to get in and out in under 30 minutes, which even meant that I didn’t have to pay for parking, because I was that quick getting in and out of the garage. I knew where to go and the quickest way to get there.

The one hitch? Everyone else.

Most people driving in the medical center are there because they or someone they care about is sicker than they’ve ever been. People who work in the hospitals park elsewhere, for the most part, so you are left on the streets with the sick, confused, scared, not from around here drivers, and they are 9000% more tedious and frustrating to drive behind than any other kind of drivers. I didn’t have any choice, though. I had to get better, so I had to go there.

For the first few weeks, I’d really let it all out when I got stuck behind someone who was driving like a drunk 12-year-old with limited distance vision. I’d honk. I’d yell (windows rolled up, but I’m loud and animated).

This was not helping. I was making a bad trip worse for myself, and my rage was not constructive, even though it was understandable.

I reflected upon what it must feel like to be scared, distracted, and confused, driving in the med center.

I started leaving a full car length in front of me. I’d let people in to make turns that they were about to miss so they wouldn’t have to circle the block. I’d stop without honking each time the person in front of me slammed on the brakes, started to turn, and then realized it still wasn’t the right place. I breathed deeply, tried to be gracious, and most of the time, still got in and out in 30 minutes.

So yesterday, when my passenger got angry that we had to stop behind someone at a green light, I spoke up for the person in front of me, even though I was annoyed, too. When the light turned green again, as we knew it would, this person hesitated a couple of times, but then made the left turn. I didn’t roar past, although I had room and was tempted. I could tell the driver still did not have a clue where to go, and was worried about turning the wrong way on a one-way street, so I just made my next turn and put that behind me.

I pretty much had a 24-hour period of this episode happening over and over. I had several challenging conversations at different places with different people, all of whom were unhappy with something I’d taken part in lately, and all of whom had totally different criticisms that boiled down to telling me it hadn’t been enough, it had been way too much, or it had been entirely the wrong thing.

And in many ways, I agree with them all. There were problems. Some good things happened, and some great things, and some that still have me wincing. I’ve been too angry about a couple of things to even be able to have a constructive conversation about them, but I’m getting there, and I’m OK with that. I know not everyone is, and I’m OK with that, too.

Because here’s where I am now.

It’s a wide road, which means sometimes, it is hard to get across.

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2 Responses to A Moving Meditation: Driving in Houston, Staying the Course

  1. Man, you really hit on something here. I was the get the FUCK OUTTA MY WAY driver for most of my adult life. Could never understand what made people so stupid on the road. Then I had my tour of duty in the Med Center when my brother got sick. I learned a valuable lesson–that sometimes people are having a hard time, and their behavior has nothing to do with the type A driver in the car behind them. In fact, they don’t even know there’s a car behind them. Can’t say I’m a 100% zen driver now, tipping my hat to every granny in my way, but I do try to remember that you never know what another person has going on at that moment.

    Perhaps I should apply this behavior to other facets of my life…

    • It is worth noting that sometimes, people totally deserve the FUCK OUTTA MY WAY and not saying it is just swallowing rage. But I’m trying to work through a big knot, and anger isn’t going to help. Right now.

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