It was one of the first concepts of AA, namely gratitude, that I understood as it applied to driving a car. When I first went to AA I wasn’t even completely legal to drive. I drove illegally on a learner’s permit (with my mother’s knowledge) at 16. The alcoholic across the street would drunkenly call my mother and rave on about what would happen should I flatten one of her offspring while I was illegally on the road.
But an oldtimer of six years told me back at the beginning, “Say ‘Thank God’ instead of ‘God dammit.'” Being the thoughtful teenager that I was, I puzzled over that and then, one the road, I had a close call. Thank God they didn’t hit me. I got it. Instead of Goddamn it they are lousy drivers.
When road rage comes up in meetings it seems to me that just about everyone can relate. Even non-drivers are exposed to plenty of road rage in my immediate world. I drive daily from one suburb to another to go to work. I could walk a mile to the supermarket if I wanted to carry stuff a mile back. I don’t. The only time someone in my household does that is for exercise.
It’s my opinion of my own driving and my attitude concerning driving that I am a fairly serene driver for my time and place. I was completely unable to teach my kids how to drive. I was terrified for my car and my body. I’m a worse passenger than I am driver, for sure. As a driver, I cannot take it if my passenger tries to “help” me drive. But that’s another topic.
As a passenger, I’ve gotten to closely know the road styles of several drivers. Not my kids, because even though they are not licensed drivers I’m not brave enough yet to be their passenger.
It’s interesting. Some drivers I know are very tense and very critical of others on the road.
I almost never save drafts when I write here, but as I was writing that, a program friend arrived to go out to dinner with Carole and I before our meeting tonight. The snow is still stacked high all around our area, and it’s difficult to drive down the streets and impossible to park. Edith, our friend, related as she came in that her car had finally been hit by another just as she pulled into the church parking lot. She said how difficult it was to drive everywhere with all the snow stacked so high.
I told her I had just been writing about road rage. She asked what I was writing about it. I said I was writing about how everyone thinks it’s everyone else on the road. She told me that it IS everyone else on the road.
So. At times I remember that I too have made mistakes while driving. Sometimes other drivers were forgiving, and sometimes they weren’t, but I was always sorry. I remember that I did drive with my kids (a little) when they were learning. The person that’s aggravating me may be a new driver. I remember how my great aunt struggled with driving as she got older. The person aggravating me may be an old person with no one to help. The person may be rushing to the hospital, or may have just had some bad news, or be very tired with a very important reason to continue.
When I have a close call I can usually be glad I didn’t get into an accident, get hurt, hurt my car, or have to go through the annoyance of insurance and repairs, or even just meeting the person.
There is a meditation I gave a reactive driver (who shall remain nameless) to keep in her car and it said, basically, that whatever is the focus of my attention at that moment determines my mood. If I’m upset over what I perceive to be the wrongdoing of others, I can’t be peaceful, or serene.
I have, in a way, handed my serenity to that other person who has long forgotten about me.