Every day I leave my house right around 8:15 AM. It takes me - on a normal day - about 30 minutes to get to work and since I have to arrive by 9:00, leaving at 8:15 gives me a 15 minute "traffic buffer" just incase I hit any snags.
Because you know, it's Eastern Massachusetts and I work "heading towards Boston". That's enough said.
As I leave my house, I can see the highway I have to get on so I am able to see what the flow of traffic looks like in the direction I'm headed. Typically speaking, it's flowing relatively freely though I can expect a slowdown one exit down due to solar glare in the winter.Today: I looked up and saw a tractor trailer. It wasn't moving. I looked closer and realized there were lots of cars. None of them were moving either. So I tried to be all slick and take the backroads to another spot to get on the highway. Those cars weren't moving either.
To make a very long story short... what usually takes me 30-35 minutes took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to accomplish from garage to parking lot. That's about twice as long as normal, and the "traffic buffer" that would normally suffice in the event of one snag (which isn't abnormal) turned out to be absolutely fruitless.
Here's where I learned a lesson in perspective today.
As I sat in my car constantly refreshing Google Maps for traffic updates and seeing nothing but red to blood red at seemingly every turn, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was going to be late for work, I have a meeting, why am I not moving, this is so boring, I've already heard this song, why is @MassDOT not tweeting what's going on (I wasn't moving, believe me - I didn't look while I was driving), etc. etc. etc.
Then I looked over and realized something: hundreds of other cars were in the same position I was in. Everyone out on the road this morning was stuck in horrible traffic. It occurred to me that with that many people in traffic, there would be a good chance that not only would most of us be pretty late for work - it's entirely possible that someone stuck in that traffic might have been given a warning not to be late anymore or their job was on the line. And maybe today was the day that person left super early so they wouldn't be late, a day to make a fresh start - only to be met with traffic that doubled their commute time.
I said a quick prayer for that person - who I'm sure existed - that their boss be reasonable and understanding.
My brain didn't stop there. I suddenly felt this bizarre sense of solidarity - we were all in the traffic club! We were all in that mess together! All for one and one for all! Here here! This solidarity among my fellow drivers was reinforced when I realized that no one seemed to be doing that "my schedule is more important than yours" move to fly down the breakdown lane. See! We're all a traffic team!
Last night I was purging my office to get rid of things so that we can consolidate to one office and make room for Baby Boy. As I was purging I came across my "thank you" copy of "The Vagina Monologues" that I received as being part of the performance when it was produced at UMass Lowell. If you've ever seen or heard of it, then you know that the premise of the entire thing is to bring awareness to women's issues not only in the US but in all parts of the world. It is meant to celebrate the beauty of women and unite us all globally to stand up for what is right. Performances are often sponsored by women's rights groups who fight for women to have the same freedoms in other parts of the world as they do in the US.
I remember this one monologue about what it was like to live under a burqa, and another about a woman who suffered from female circumcision and rape at the hands of soldiers in her own country. As I sat in traffic this morning, these stories came into my mind and took up space in my heart. Here I was letting my heartrate and frustration level rise because I was sitting in traffic, being inconvenienced... when really the fact that I was sitting in traffic would be considered a blessing by many women around the world.
Think about it - what led me to be sitting in the traffic in the first place? I was able to get a good education, put myself through college, choose whatever job I wanted, wear whatever clothes I picked out this morning, drive myself to work, choose what path to take - and at the end of the whole thing, arrived safely to be treated by my male peers with respect and viewed as an equal.
Without that sort of cultural surrounding - I wouldn't have been sitting in traffic this morning. Suddenly, the traffic didn't seem like a huge bother anymore.
Don't get me wrong - sitting in traffic is definitely an inconvenience, and is doubly annoying when my husband is home before me at night and I'd rather be spending time with him than sitting behind the back-end of a garbage truck staring at its taillights. It's not the traffic that I'm grateful for, especially when you consider that most traffic is caused by the misfortune of another driver. That's not it at all.
What I'm grateful for - and am actually incredibly thankful for - is that I've been blessed enough to be able to be a woman in the United States of America. A place where I can literally be who I want to be, can chase my dreams, believe in the God I choose to believe in, can be treated as an equal in the eyes of everyone.
The next time you're sitting in traffic... take a deep breath, and think about how you got to that point in the first place. If you're anything like me, it'll make the ride a lot less painful.