I live in construction hell. No, really. Grand scale highway expansion. My local folks will know of what I speak: my Collin County, Texas, roads have been torn up literally for years. Both of the main arteries I take to get south to Dallas, a state highway and an interstate, have been transformed into what I lovingly call the Concrete Chutes of Death. I’ll explain.
On the interstate, there are barriers on both sides of two lanes and no shoulders, meaning the almost daily, exhilarating experience of hurtling seventy miles an hour down the road with inches separating my car from an eighteen wheeler and the concrete. The state highway is worse. It’s one lane, no shoulders, concrete barriers on either side. It’s like an Atari game, I kid you not. An accidental flick of the wrist, or God forbid a sneeze, and bad, bad things can happen to you.
So, when your everyday thoroughfare includes either an exciting game of Stay-In-Your-Lane-For-The-Love-of-God or the unexpected surprise of a lane closure, resulting in a half hour delay (you never know! The road changes every day! Exits move!), it can make a commuter a tad…shall we say cranky? Let’s just say I’ve noticed more than one of our local citizens wearing his heinie as a hat while behind the wheel in our lovely construction (did I mention it has been going on for years and is slated to continue to go on for years more? But I digress).
Drivers behaving badly got me to thinking. Having noticed that how someone does something is usually how they do anything, I started to think about a metaphor (that’s something old English majors just kind of do) where car equals you, and the drive equals life’s journey. Hear me out. It seems apt.
If you are impatient in traffic, racing around people, tailgating, always in a huff about being late, that’s how you approach problems in your life: interested in furthering your own gains without the concern for the safety of others, worked up, far from peaceful. You gun the engine, wear out the brakes, don’t get your car serviced; parts wear out and accidents happen. Chances are you treat your body and life the same way.
Are you afraid to drive? Afraid of traffic? Seized up and panicky in the car? Worried you’ll get lost, be late, get hurt? Are you thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, driving distracted? Do you, and I have to say this trick makes me mental, come to a complete halt on the highway exceleration ramp because you’re too afraid to excelerate and join the faster pace, endangering the people behind you? Do you force yourself into traffic, making others stop or move over before you will before someone gets hurt?
Are you always looking in your rear view mirror or around you instead of watching the road? Are your hands on the wheel or do you sometimes steer with one knee? Are you doing something else when you’re supposed to be driving: eating? Putting on makeup? Texting? Do your self-righteously judge other drivers? Do you vary your speed to please others, maybe go a little faster than you want to because someone behind you is pressuring you? Or do you trust in your own driving and pay attention to what you think is safe? For the love of all that is holy are you aware your left blinker has been on for the past five miles??
Do enjoy the drive or resent having to make it to get to where you’re going? What is your attitude toward delay? Do you curse your luck and pound the dashboard? Or do you know your anger or stress will not open up another lane of traffic and turn on some music and try to relax, do some thinking? Do you ever give thanks for your car that is in fine repair when others walk or ride without heating or cooling or sometimes even parts they need? Oh my god please tell me you do not cut corners through gas stations to turn right. I might cut you.
How we do anything is how we do everything. How you approach the car and the drive is how you approach yourself and your life. Sometimes when improvements are being made, it does look kind of like a hellscape. Like no progress is being made. Like harm is eminent (and I’m looking at you, intersection of Highway 380 and 75). How will you guide yourself through? What’s your GPS?
Because in this metaphor, folks, life is a highway. And we are, indeed, fated to drive it together all night long. For me, I’m going to go the speed limit, signal, proceed with caution and not worry if someone’s tailgating me or change my speed for them. I’m waving at folks on my county road, and I’m the one that will let you merge in traffic. If you’re signaling nicely, of course.
So I hope my little car and driving metaphor sparked some insight for some of y’all. Because from where I’m sitting, some of you don’t care if your drive ends soon and violently or if you take someone with you. I’m thinking: if folks don’t like the way I’m driving, they can go around; I have a tendency to stick to the right lane myself anyway. I’m going to keep an eye on my gauges, do maintenance when needed. But alas: I fear my interior will always smell of drive-through chicken nuggets.
TSB contributor Eliska Counce’s Momma Drama column appears weekly.