Daydream for a minute at a traffic light and you might get caught sitting still when the light turns green. In larger cities when the traffic light changes, don’t dawdle for a second before you stomp the accelerator, or the inevitable blast of the horn from the car behind you might trumpet. We are not talking about a little toot of a reminder, but rather a long harsh blast as to proclaim the driver’s anger loudly and flamboyantly.
When this occurs one might realize we have developed into a culture of impatience and intolerance. The sad reality of impatience is it breeds more impatience, and ultimately anger. When someone else shows their anger, only you have control how you respond. Life is too short to allow other people to control how you feel.
I catch myself becoming impatient with my computer when it does not respond as quickly as I am accustomed. What is the cost of our ever-developing technology? The United States Postal Service is feeling the pinch of the Internet and e-mail. Cellphones, e-mail, and fax machines have transformed our awareness of instant communication as immediacy. This new technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but has it actually put us behind in our interpersonal relationship skills? Has it also made us impatient?
Patience is one key to avoiding traffic accidents. It is also extremely important in avoiding road rage. Even the most peaceful person can get irritated while driving, so you might as well expect someone will cut you off, follow too close, blow their horn, or think they own the road.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”
About half of the drivers that get the finger, or are followed too close, respond with blowing their own horn, screaming, or making their own obscene gestures. If you are a victim of road rage, the best way to make sure it does not get worse is to ignore it.
It doesn’t matter how angry you feel, you have to keep your cool. Irrational, aggressive, calm, sleepy, and stressed out drivers are always on the road. Road rage is the very last thing you want to happen. Your life can depend on your calmness because hundreds of people are killed when involved in road rage each year.
The way I see it, the time I have on this earth is limited so why should I allow insignificant things to make me upset. Someone else can NOT pull my string because I have the remote control. What is the big deal if the driver in front of me is inattentive when the traffic light turns green?
In 1988, Bobby McFerrin released a song called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double.”
I am sure a couple of seconds is not going to make any difference in the quality of my life. Besides, holding my temper might even earn me a few extra months before I meet the undertaker.
Years ago most of my fellow employees were all abuzz about a new city policy that prohibited nepotism. Some folks were so miserable all they could talk about was the stupidity of the new policy. In reality, the new policy did not impact any existing employee, and all their anger was for naught.
Often the people who complain the most are the most miserable and have the least to occupy their time. The Washington Athletic Club indicated 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits, medical and psychological visits, are now recognized as stress related.
We should not gauge our lives by how many years we live, but rather how much we enjoy the life we are given. Uncontrolled anger ages us faster, impedes our healing process, and reduces our longevity. The lyrics of another song I heard recently said: “Life is a game you can’t win so enjoy the ride.”
Life is indeed too short not to enjoy every moment, enjoy it now. The remote control is in your hand.
Charlie Sewell is chief of police for McMinnville Police Department.