Trying to be Better

Everyone is busy. We’re all in a rush. This life we’ve built for ourselves is demanding and fast-paced, and if we don’t hurry, the balls we’re juggling will drop. The world will crash down around us. It will be our fault. And we’ll pay.

So we go as quickly as we can and accomplish as much as we can, and if we don’t have time to appreciate what we have, well, who does?

I’m as guilty as anyone, but I do try to do better. For example, when I’m driving, and I get behind someone who’s going 10 or 15 mph under the speed limit, I try to see this as an opportunity. Relax. Take it slow. Unwind. Breathe. These moments are to be cherished, I tell myself. Welcome them. Do not get started on an ulcer.

This morning I finished up an equine massage at about 9:30, and I headed home, hoping to have time to put up a new electric fence before my next client arrived at noon. I was on schedule. The rain had stopped. I had everything I needed in order to do the job.

As I turned onto Merriam Hill Road, I came up behind someone in a little blue compact going 15 mph. This isn’t unusual. We get tourist traffic here, usually heading past my house and on down the road to Parker’s Maple Barn. And they come in nice cars that haven’t yet been exposed to our less-than-ideal roads. So they creep along, looking for the least bumpy bits, showing their cars a kindness that most of our residents have long ago abandoned.

And those darn out-of-towners are out enjoying the day, ignoring the fact that some of us actually live here and have places we need to be, darn it. And why couldn’t he either pull over and let me pass, or drive a little bit closer to the speed limit? What was he doing here with a new car? We buy old cars, and we drive ‘em over anything and everything at speeds normally reserved for new pavement. We know our cars will pay a price, and we accept that. It’s sort of like paying a tax for living amid all this beauty. Besides, automotive mechanics need to eat, too.

I wasn’t all that impatient, but neither was I feeling warm and fuzzy toward the dawdler. I mean, it’s a weekday morning, and people have to get to work. C’mon. Move it, already.

And then, I remembered how horribly I drove while I was suffering from Lyme disease. I’d stop at green lights, drive 10 mph under the speed limit, all the while feeling scared and out of control, and I wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around the simple concept of pulling over to allow faster traffic to pass.

So, even though I wasn’t tailgating, I backed off a few yards.

Then, as I followed the car past the fire station, I started to wonder if it might instead be someone elderly. The fact that the driver was invisible above the head rest seemed to support this possibility. Probably an older woman, so short that she could barely see above the steering wheel. Could be she was going as quickly as she was able.

I backed off a few more yards and gave her plenty of space. No sense adding the pressure of an impatient motorist to her already full plate.

I followed this car all the way down Depot Road and, wouldn’t you know it, she stopped at the end and put on her left turn signal. Darn. I was going left.

But then, in the side view mirror, I saw a wizened face, deep in concentration, looking left, then right, then left, and then right again. And I recognized that face.

He’s well into his 90’s, and he lost his wife a few years back. He still lives alone, still cares for his lawn and tends his vegetable garden. Every summer he leaves his excess produce in a cardboard box at the end of his driveway with a sign that says Free. He’s always kind, even though he could choose to be otherwise, and he always speaks well of everyone, even though it would be easy not to. He’s a neighborhood treasure, and we love him.

I followed him with a smile, waited in the road while he maneuvered into his driveway, and then I asked if he needed help carrying anything into his house.

Nope, he had it covered.

I could wax on about how this taught me a lesson, but I expect it’s one I’ll need to learn a few more times. I’m slow, but I’m working on it.

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8 thoughts on “Trying to be Better

  1. Thanks for that little reminder. This will probably be me in the too near future. I can only hope that those following me will be as understanding.

    • Man, I have moments where I daydream, and then – why am I going so slowly? Eeeek!

      I have to admit that I do both. I’m the slow old fart and the impatient follower. Depends on the day.

  2. What a lovely story Nancy. I’ll think of it the next time I’m behind someone slow on the road. Actually I’ll probably think of it even more when I’m older and have become that slow person on the road. 🙂 Your community is lucky to have you.

  3. Nancy, I laughed at your blog. It is so typical and so touching. We all have to learn about patience and your struggles have taught you a valuable lesson. I took time out to read this, in between rushing through 85 new emails and deleting as many as possible to get to the bones.
    I will remember this tale when my husband meets the many ‘too slow’ drivers on our fast motorway (110 klms). ‘Why don’t they learn to drive?” “Find your accelerator.” “Put your foot down.” “Move to the left.” “It’s on the floor.” It is so different when we see each other face to face.

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