Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | July 12, 2012

Rights! . . . And Wrongs

I battled it out the other day with a big sport utility vehicle.  As I pulled up to a stop sign, the big SUV was staring me down from across the intersection.  We were squared off, both waiting for cross-traffic to clear.  He was turning left; I was turning right.

According to the rules of the road, I had the right away.  But I could tell he was chomping at the bit.  He was going to jump out ahead of me, given even half a chance.  I was determined to exert my rights under the law and beat him to the punch.  But he started to make his move even before traffic cleared.  So I made mine, too.  As soon as the last car passed, I stomped the accelerator.  I got out ahead of my nemesis by a hair’s breadth.  I was pretty sure he was mad.  But I had bested him.

I felt pretty good about the outcome of this duel, at least for a minute or two.  But then it sunk in, as it always does in these situations.  I was pretty childish.  This was adolescent behavior.  Worse yet, safety was at issue.  This battle of wills might have resulted in an accident.  How would I have felt then?  My smugness quickly turned to remorse, and I wish I could have done this over again.

A few minutes later, the scene played out once more.  It was the same situation.  But this time I was squaring off against a little white car, hardly a match for me if I wanted to exert my rights.  Having fresh regrets about my encounter with the big SUV, though, I decided to play the gracious—and courteous—driver.

The little white car pulled out slowly, as if trying my patience, and turned left.  I pulled out and followed the car.  I kept a good distance, wanting to maintain my courtesy.  Almost immediately the car turned right.  Now I have often complained about cars pulling out in front of me, slowing down, and then—agonizingly for me—taking their sweet-upon-sweetest time turning.  Often they don’t signal their turn.  So there is no way to know if I am clear to pass on the left or whether they will be turning left, in which case they would meet and greet my right-front quarter-panel if I decided to pass.

Well, this little white car gave me a signal.  It was turning right.  And it turned directly into the parking lot of a hospice facility!  Suddenly I felt very good about my adult decision to be a gracious and courteous-to-a-fault driver.  Who knows what this day was holding for the driver of the little white car?  Perhaps this driver’s mother, father, child, or other close relative or friend was drawing the final few breaths of this life at this hospice house.  The driver may have been in great agony and under great mental strain heading into that parking lot.  I could have made it even worse had I pursued selfish ambitions and exerted my perceived “rights.”

As with my first encounter with the big SUV, I felt pretty good about the outcome of this repeat engagement.  This time, however, that good feeling stayed with me for a good, long time.

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