Last Sunday, February 19, was my day off from work. I had been looking forward to it even though I didn’t have anything planned. But that’s the way I usually enjoy my days off. I don’t like having a full schedule or having any place in particular that I need to be. So, that morning, I woke up slowly and got dressed. Then I spent an hour or so lingering over a cup of coffee and a mystery novel. I reveled in the feeling of just lazing around for a while before going to the gym. I spent an hour exercising my legs and doing some cardio. I was relaxed and at peace….
Well, at least, until I was driving home after my work out. I felt a little anxious while I was on the highway. I was eager to get back home. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish that afternoon. I needed to clean my house and work on my novel. I needed to file my taxes and pay bills. I wasn’t feeling stressed; I was just motivated to get on with my day. I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down. I smiled as I listened to my stereo and watched the highway unfold in front of me. The drive home was peaceful…
Until it wasn’t any more.
Wait! What’s this? What’s happening?
I came around a bend in the highway and suddenly found that traffic had slowed down before coming to a complete stop. All three lanes of the northbound 435 were blocked by stranded cars. I suddenly found myself waiting in a long line of traffic in the far right lane. I was still too far away to know what was causing the traffic jam, but the cars directly in front of me suddenly began to veer over to the left to get into the middle lane. I quickly swerved over, too, before traffic could build up too heavily behind me. Once more, I found myself sitting in the middle of traffic as I watched two police cars, a fire truck, and an ambulance, all with sirens blaring, speeding by on the shoulder of the highway.
After a few moments, traffic slowly began to move forward; however, the cars in my lane were once more merging to the left and pushing into the fast lane. I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed a small gap opening up in the left lane. A large black SUV was still a few feet away. I began to maneuver to the left when the SUV suddenly sped forward and closed the gap, shutting me out. I was a little shocked that the man behind the wheel would not allow me the opportunity to merge. I glared at him for a moment before pulling back into the middle lane and creeping forward a few feet. Again, I noticed a gap in the left lane and started to ease over, just to be once more cut off by a woman in a small red Toyota Camry. I shook my head and then tried again to get in the left lane. The cars in front of me had already merged over to the left. Why was I finding it so difficult to get a break in the heavy traffic? Over and over again, five, six, seven times, vehicles zoomed forward without giving me a break. I was trapped behind police cars and fire trucks that were now parked directly in front of me in the middle lane. I was stuck; there was no room for me to move forward. I had no choice; I had to merge but just couldn’t seem to find a kind-hearted person to have pity on me and allow me a break.
Even though I didn’t know what the problem was, I knew this was a dangerous situation. I just had to be patient and not cause any further problems. I reminded myself that someone would be kind enough to give me a break sooner or later. I told myself to be kind to other people. I needed to allow other drivers the opportunity to get through the backed up traffic. So as I waited for a break to merge to the left, I stopped and allowed a few cars from the far right lane in front of me. That probably wasn’t the best idea. I was stuck even deeper in the middle of traffic now. Again, I took another deep breath. Be cool! I told myself. Don’t make a bad situation worse.
But I was still sitting in the middle of traffic with my blinker clicking and a little green arrow flashing on my dashboard. I kept inching over to the left only to find my front bumper in danger of being knocked off by speeding cars that were pushing around me and not allowing me access to the fast lane. Feeling trapped and beginning to think I was going to be in this position for the rest of the day, I now began to get agitated and irritated. My patience had started to run very thin. Why was this happening? I wondered. Why are all of these people being so rude? I have to admit then I was getting really impatient and angry. How is this fair? I was tired of just sitting on the highway being pushed around by the other drivers. And I admit I used a few words I hadn’t said in a very long time. I cussed and swore and said things I would never want to repeat….I’m still surprised that I said them in the first place. But I was just so aggravated with everyone at this point. I finally realized that if I wanted to get anywhere that afternoon I would have to be aggressive and demanding. I finally realized that I would just have to push my way into the left lane. I stared into the side mirror until I noticed another small gap in the line of traffic. I took a deep breath and quickly swung my car over to the left. I just prayed that the person who was driving in the fast lane would stop, especially since I was straddling both lanes. Then as traffic moved forward, I quickly pulled into the left lane, drove past the fire truck and ambulance….
…And suddenly, my breath caught in my throat.
Now, that I had driven around the fire truck, I could see the situation clearly. A massive car wreck had taken place just moments earlier. Two cars were sitting on the left shoulder of the highway and a third car was halfway in a ditch on the right. I couldn’t see any damage to these cars, but I wasn’t really paying that much attention to them. Instead, my eyes and mind became focused on a fourth car that was in the right hand lane. The car was upside down and the roof and windows no longer exited. The car was lying completely flat. Oh, my gosh, seeing the way the car was situated, I couldn’t imagine that the driver and passengers had survived. There was no way anyone in that black, muddy car could have lived through this wreck. The top of the car was smashed flat down on the highway.
Tears burned in my eyes and I felt myself gasping for breath. I started saying quick prayers for all the souls involved in this wreck. But I couldn’t stop on the highway. I needed to keep moving and that was alright because I just wanted to get away now. I quickly drove down the highway and away from the damage. I was really ashamed of myself. How could I have gotten so upset at the other drivers for not letting me switch lanes? Why couldn’t I have just remained calm and patient? People lost their lives just now on this highway and here I was getting upset because I thought people were being rude to me.
The other drivers actually weren’t being rude, I realized now. It wasn’t anything personal. Everyone was just stressed and frustrated and just wanted to get on their way. I had been so bad today. I had cursed the cars zooming past me and completely forgotten that there were real, vulnerable people inside those other vehicles. Instead of getting irritated, I should have just said prayers for everyone to be protected and to arrive safely at their destination. The awful sight of the smashed, overturned car was a perfect reminder that we are all so fragile and need to be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect. We are all only human and so quickly because of one outrageous, silly mistake, life can be gone so quickly
As I drove down the highway, I continued to pray for the people involved in the wreck and for all of the other drivers around me. I asked that God protect everyone traveling on the highway that day. I apologized to God for getting so upset and angry. I then told God that I was just so tired of all of the hatefulness, the death, and the destruction that seemed to be so prominent in the world today. Make it stop, God, please.
And just then, I drove around a bend and there, by the side of the highway, was a field full of bright beautiful flowers. Colorful spring flowers were lining the side of the highway on this cold February day. And there was a small sign right in front that read “Wildflowers in Bloom.” I smiled then and drove the rest of the way home with a joyful heart and the world suddenly at peace.