In Minnesota, there are two seasons: Winter and Construction. Now that school is out for the summer, parents and care givers who are responsible for their kids’ activities, usually find themselves driving more during the day because of the various summer camp drop offs and pick ups. Speaking for myself, since I love summer, these schedules do not bother me at all. It’s a huge load off my shoulders NOT to have to be at school by a certain time - either at the beginning of the day or at pick up. I mean, if we’re late to summer tennis - that’s one thing, but being late to school is another. Yes, I will gladly take this disruptive schedule of driving around over a mandatory school start or carpool pick up time any day.
With that said, the entire surrounding area where I live and work are in the throws of repairing the streets because of tough winter elements. If the roads are not repaired, then they are even worse when the snow comes down again. Yes, without fail, the snow will come down year after year. This means construction, when the weather permits, is rampant. Our patience is constantly being tested because now that we’re finally free to race around; we can’t. We’re in driving hell during the best weather months of the year.
Since I write a blog about thoughtfulness, I find myself thinking about opportunities to give someone a thoughtful pinch many times while I’m driving. Here’s a pinch that is easy, simple and it’s free. Picture this scenario: The neighborhood streets aren’t super narrow, but they are immediately impacted if cars are parked on either side. A driver in another car has to pull their car over in order to allow you to pass them going in the opposite direction. WAVE YOUR HAND AS YOU PASS THEM BY. This gesture is a sign of acknowledgement and can also be interpreted as a non-verbal - thank you. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can even add a smile. This is an opportunity to show that you appreciate their thoughtfulness. We all know that there are plenty of times when someone doesn’t pull to the side of the road to let you pass by. So when someone does, don’t take it for granted. Don’t have the mindset of: Yes, they pulled over because that is their job, it’s the law or they had no choice. Use this moment to show community spirit. People, we are all driving in the same hell so let’s appreciate a kind gesture when we see one.
Now, if my road pinch suggestion is only adding yet another something to your “to-do” list, I hear you. I don’t want this to be an obligation. However, what if I make it even easier for you? Don’t even completely raise your hand to wave. Keep your thumb right where it rests while you’re driving and just lift up your four fingers so that they are seen above the steering wheel. That’s it. It’s that easy. Done! Check being thoughtful off your to-do list.
There are many versions of this Socrates quote floating around these days and I think all versions speak the same truth. This quote has helped me transition from a defensive driver to someone who has a little more compassion for the road ragers out there. Now, that does not mean I accept road rage. It just means, I get it - there are different shapes and sizes of the battles people are going thru so I try harder not to take things personally. A couple of years ago, when my mother moved in with us, I realized that whenever she was in the car with me or my kids were in the car with me, that I was pretty much “performing” to a captured audience. Whether I throw up the middle finger or give a friendly wave, anyone who is in my car sees this. I decided that every time I drive, I have an opportunity to show thoughtfulness.
For example, when I’m driving and my son sees me wave, he has asked several times, “Mama, who was that?”. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I don’t know the other person so I reply, “Oh I don’t know, why?”. He’ll ask further, “Why did you wave to them?” My answer is, “Because they let us pass by so I wanted to thank them.” I’m constantly planting seeds; tiny seeds, but thoughtful seeds nevertheless. I think being in a car sort of magnifies the growth process. The more my son hears and sees me wave, the greater the chance that it will rub off. And if there are more grateful drivers on the road, the better for all.