Monday, January 4, 2010

Why the Road Rage?

You rush out the door with exactly the amount of time it will take you to get to work without being late remaining on the clock. You get into your car, put the key in the ignition, pop the shift into gear and head off to the office. Things seem to be going along smoothly until you hit a wall of traffic. Thinking you're very intelligent, you turn off the highway and head towards "backroads" in order to avoid the jam only to be met with - another wall of traffic, made up (of course) of all of the other smart people who are avoiding the interstate.

You are now officially running late for work. You feel your blood start to boil. You become frustrated, nervous, agitated, bored, and all sorts of other toxic emotions that you can't seem to control. You muster up all the patience in your body to not drive (illegally) in the breakdown lane and lose your cool with the people around you who are in the same exact predicament you are in.

When you eventually do make it to work, usually you run (or powerwalk) into your work area. You commisserate with the other people who were stuck in the traffic with you about how awful your commute was, swapping stories of what ways you went to avoid the mess (only to find another mess), and inevitably discuss how incredibly inconvenienced you were by the traffic jam. Someone might ask what happened to cause it all, only to be given a mumbling response about some accident on the traffic report.

Most of us have found ourselves in this situation at some point in our lives. I found myself in it this morning at about 8:54 when I called my co-worker to inform him that after 25 minutes (my normal commute time) of being on the road and only progressing 3 of the 18 miles it takes to get to work - I would, indeed, be late. An hour and a half later when I arrived at work, the talk of the department was about the traffic and what in the world caused it... something about an accident on the traffic report. I think maybe once on the phone at 8:54 when I called in did I give the people in the accident a second thought when I said "I heard something about an accident... I just hope that whoever that was is OK."

Other than that - I was frustrated. I was late. I was inconvenienced.

Sometime right around 2:00 PM, I began to wonder what in the world happened to cause all the traffic this morning. My trusty friend Google led me to this article about an accident on 93 South that took the life of a 29 year old woman and sent two other people to the hospital. It was at that point that my conscience sarcastically said to my selfish self (after my heart sunk directly to my stomach): "I know - how dare you get to work safely while others were injured or killed? What an awful blessing!" If my conscience could roll its eyes, I think it would have at that point.

I realized in that moment that by getting frustrated and angry at the situation, I was not acting as Christ has called us to act. By reacting to the traffic the way that I had, I was forgetting that people could have been seriously injured and the suffering that would cause to their family and friends. I was not loving the people in the cars involved in the crash, I was not loving my own loved ones by being grateful I arrived safely - I was only concerned with my own ride to work and the inconvenience of arriving late.

This kind of reaction to traffic is very common in our culture, but we are called to live and be someone better that what society has trained us to be. Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (The Message).

I don't want to be the person who gets angry in traffic and only cares about her own little world. I want to be the person that Christ has called us to be, to act that way in the world, and to be counter to the culture of the traffic jam.

Jesus, please help me to be the person that Paul describes to us in Romans 12:1-2. I want to be changed, I want to be more like you in every aspect of my life. Please be with the families of those killed or injured in today's accident, and let them find comfort in your love. Thank you for your words, thank you for calling us to be something more. I pray this in your holy name - Amen


Kat said...

Admittedly I tend to react with road rage too because as long as you don't know it's an accident, bad traffice situations drive me mad.
On my way to work, which would only take 5 min every morning, I have to pass two traffic lights and time and time again people from out of town stand in the wrong lane, then hold up the entire traffic which leads to traffic being backed up. That drives me mad but when on the highway and I hear about an accident I tend to think about the poor souls involved in it, hoping everyone is ok.

Doug said...

Oh, you were stuck in that cluster-eff of traffic yesterday too? Took me an hour to get from 213 to the 110 rotary...while it is tragic that someone lost their life, it does infuriate me that who ever caused the accident effected so many people adversely. Not only the deceased but the 10's of thousands of people who got screwed by that situation.

I am pretty sure that driving in the breakdown lane is legal between 6am and 10am and 3pm and 7pm.

Danielle A. said...

@Kat - The five minute drive that turns into more than that is usually the most infuriating, I agree. There's usually no tragedy for hold-ups, just lights with poor timing. :P

@Doug - You are correct on the breakdown lane legality. In fact, that was the only lane open on Monday when that all happened. I was referring to when you're in traffic and the BDL is not "open" or allowed to be driven in. When people do that it drives me nuts!