Honk! …lessons from the back seat
I live in the United States, in the southern part of the California, near Los Angeles. For those of you who don’t know about this area, it’s famous for sun, moviemaking, smog, celebrities, and lots of the best music ever. But when you live here, what sticks out most is something else… TRAFFIC!
This is a lovely place to live, so people move here from all over the world. And since we don’t have enough public transportation, most of those people drive. A lot. All the time. And because of that, we have lots and lots and LOTS of traffic.
When I’m home, my powerful ears can hear honking, accelerating, braking, and, yes, accidents, but it’s all distant. However, when Handsome takes me somewhere, particularly if he uses one of the big freeways, I get a look at the human race that… well… isn’t always pretty. (And that includes watching my favorite human acting in ways that sometimes aren’t the best.)
And over the last few weeks, as the traffic has gotten even worse, with holiday shopping and extra tourism, I’ve realized that there’s a lot to learn about life from the back seat on these crazy streets and freeways. So, for your pleasure, here goes:
Few things in life are more frightening than tailgaters. These are the drivers who think it’s smart to pull right up next to the car in front of them, even if both are driving very fast. Maybe they think this will inspire the car in front to move faster, or let them get by. Or maybe they think it makes them look tough and intense. Or maybe they’re just not paying attention. Regardless, they’re simply putting their money and their cars’ front ends, and maybe some bones or lives, at risk. The question, though, is how to deal with them when they’re right on your tail.
This is a lot like a lot of situations in life. Everyone has a sense of comfortable space, the distance they like others to stand from them. When someone invades that area, especially if they’re purposely harassing you, it causes a surge in fear and anger (If you want to find out what teeth feel like in your nose, try crowding too close to the face of a dog you don’t know!).
Many drivers get angry and yell at tailgaters, while glaring at them in their rear-view mirror. This doesn’t do a whole lot of good, since the offending dope can’t see or hear them. Some get aggressive, and hit their brakes, in order to frighten the idiots. This can work (and can get pretty funny results), unless the tailgater is not paying attention (meaning your car gets crashed into), or has anger issues – in which case you might get forced off the road and beaten up.
My suggestion, both on the road and off, is simply to move aside and let these morons get past you. If they have a legitimate reason to be driving or acting this way (let’s say they have someone in the car who needs to get to the hospital right away), you’re letting them do the job they need. And if they’re just stupid drivers, you’re saving yourself from their idiocy.
And if, in regular life, you just step aside and let a crowding fool know that you want them to move on, you’ll find the air around you becomes a lot easier to breathe!
2) Drinkers and Texters
While tailgaters deserve to be given a reasonable doubt, that they might have a good reason to drive that way, drinkers and texters don’t share this at all. When a car is driving very erratically, swerving across lanes, not noticing when lights change, etc., Handsome gets very frightened, and I do too. These people seem to forget a simple fact: Cars are giant powerful machines. You can’t run one correctly when you’re not giving it your full attention – and doing that can hurt or even kill someone.
And people do this all the time.
Similarly, off the roads, we see people everywhere irresponsibly waving their power around. Throwing out insults without thinking of their effects, grabbing at others with no concern about how that feels… even handling weapons casually. This is inexcusable.
This is one case where Handsome sometimes handles himself well: he calls the police.
Yep, that’s the best thing to do. If you see someone who’s clearly driving erratically, call the cops on your cell phone (using a safe method – like headphones or a speaker), and give them the license plate number and your location. And let them take care of it. To not do this is giving up your responsibility as a member of your community. Just imagine: how would you feel to find out the next day that that drunk ran over a child or a dog? Do your best to keep that from happening. And actually, you’ll improve that driver’s life too, by waking them up to what they’re doing.
And, similarly, if you see a friend acting in a very irresponsible way, be the best friend you can, and have the guts to tell them so. And if they can’t handle it, maybe tell a grownup, or, if necessary, a police officer.
Remember, this world is yours as much as it’s anyone else’s. You have the right, and the responsibility, to make it safe.
I love running. I loooooove it! The faster the better. And I love riding fast in Handsome’s car – and I know he loves driving it fast too! And just as I don’t like having a leash on, no person likes having rules about how fast they can drive.
But those rules are there for reasons. And when you catch yourself speeding (as Handsome often does), it’s really important to remember to slow down. Even if the rules feel too severe. And save that feeling for somewhere where it’s safe.
For example, while I have to wear the leash around our neighborhood, I know that Handsome will eventually take me to a dog park or a beach where he can let me run, and love it as much as I do. And if he really wants to drive his car fast, there are racetracks that will allow him to go as fast as he likes.
But on the roads, he’s got to respect the “leash” of the speed limits. Because, again, they are there for a reason. And if he can’t see what the reason is – for example, let’s say there’s a road that looks like it should allow him to go twice as fast as the speed limit – then that probably means he can’t see the reason (maybe a dip up ahead, or a railroad crossing), which is exactly why he needs that limit right there.
Just as I need my leash, because I might not be aware of a car speeding down the street – who’s not obeying the speed limit!
Through my windows, I often see cars stuck on the road. Maybe they’ve stalled out, maybe they had a flat tire or an accident. I don’t know. What I do know is that they might need help. And most drivers don’t care to check to see.
Now sure, if the car’s just there because its owner is taking a nap after driving too long, there’s nothing to do about that. But what if they’re stuck in snow, or changing a tire? Could you get out and give them a hand? Do you have the time or the chance to? Or what if they’re just waiting for a repair truck, but are stuck in a dangerous place? Could you phone the police to come and wait with them, so their flashing lights can warn other drivers to change lanes?
This is real life! Around you, right now, most people are probably doing just fine, but there are others who could really use a hand. If you have the chance, if you have the opportunity, why not help them out?
Why not hold the door open for someone carrying a package? Why not give your seat on the train up for someone older, or who just looks tired? Why not give that begging woman a little bit of change? Why not even just give that sad-eyed kid at school a friendly smile?
Doing nice things for others is the best feeling we ever get. I’ve given so many kisses in my life, but the ones where I lick someone’s tears are the tastiest of all.
Some people are just scared. They’re scared all the time. And their being scared can make them more dangerous to others – though I’m sure they don’t intend that to happen.
One kind of driver who makes Handsome scream is the one who enters an intersection to make a turn, but doesn’t pull forward enough to let another car in – apparently because they think it’s dangerous to do so. Then they don’t turn until after the light has changed, so the car behind them has to wait for another light. In fact, every car behind them has been slowed down, just because of this driver’s imagining that some other driver is going to run a light and plow into them – even though that’s usually impossible.
But the ones who drive him even angrier are the ones who slow down – or stop – at intersections with green lights. They can see that all the oncoming traffic is stopped, but they still slow down or stop, thinking that one of those cars is going to suddenly accelerate, run a red light that they’re stopped at, and hit them. This also slows down everyone behind them, and can even cause accidents. It drives him NUTS!
And in regular life… It’s simply no fun to live scared all the time. If you do, you’ll not only miss out on chances for yourself, but keep others from living their own lives too, just because you exist in a state of fear.
I know I’m always saying this, my dear friends, but the solution is to LIVE! And if you really LIVE, that’ll enable you to actually do more GOOD THINGS! People with more friends are able to get their friends to help others. People who make more money are able to give more money away. And people who pull all the way into intersections, or move through quickly, are enabling the drivers behind them to get off the road – to meeting their friends, or getting to their job, or just putting less pollution in the air – all the sooner!
6) Enjoying Misery
Crazy, clueless, irresponsible drivers are everywhere. But unless you live in a city, you probably don’t know how bad traffic jams can get. Now if you’re on your way to a World Cup match or a One Direction concert, you expect a lot of waiting, because so many people are trying to get to the same place at the same time. And because of that, you’re probably going to be pretty okay about it. But what about when you’re on your way to school, or to see the new Thor movie, and you’re stuck in traffic for an hour because… well, likely because some dumbhead was speeding and tailgating while texting and didn’t notice the stalled car in front of them, and caused a big accident that’s held everything up? What do you do then?
I can tell you what too many people do – they freak out! They honk and yell and try to wind around the other cars by illegally driving on the shoulder and…
And they don’t get anywhere any faster at all.
I know this feeling very well. I’ve always disliked being cooped up, and when I was a puppy, Handsome would put me into a crate at nights, and I hated it! Hardly anything in life is as frustrating as being kept from moving when you feel like moving (and a puppy wants to move all the time!).
But you know what I did? I would whine, paw at the door, yowl a bit… and then take a deep breath, and go to sleep. I knew there was nothing to be done about this little prison. So I might as well get something pleasant out of it.
And when a person’s stuck in traffic? Well, they can check out different radio stations. They can phone a friend. Maybe even read a book. There’s lots they can do – and any of them are better than honking or acting stupid.
Same thing in the rest of life. I’m all for struggling against ridiculous situations, but once you realize there’s no way around it… accept it, for as long as you have to, and make the best of it. Eventually, the traffic always moves, and eventually, you reach your destination. One way or another.
Okay, there’s one further thing I’ve learned from Handsome, through our adventures in traffic. And this is lots of fun, but I can’t go into much detail about it here. And that is… Vocabulary!
Why, if it weren’t for traffic, I wouldn’t have known a lot of the words I used here today – like moron, idiot, nincompoop… and I definitely wouldn’t have known many many MANY other words that I am not comfortable using here! Words like #$@%! And @*#+! And of course %@^#&*(!!!!
Each of these words has a specific meaning and is a Synonym (do you know that word? It’s a word that means a word that means the same as another word! Try saying that three times – even with a human mouth!).
One of those words is a synonym for tailgater. One is a synonym for driving-texter. And one is a symptom for person-who-won’t-pull-forward-in-an-intersection.
All of them are extremely entertaining to hear, from the back seat. And I know that all of them are reasons why I’m glad the windows to our car are usually closed, as they might prove quite offensive to other people’s ears.
But for me, they’re just the same as the barks I yell out at cats, at squirrels, at passing dogs, at skateboarders… except that they’re even funnier.
Education experts tell us that the secret to a fulfilling life is to never stop learning, to keep ingesting new facts and ideas forever. Well, this has been a list of things I’ve learned while being strapped into the back seat of a car – the most boring, cramped place I know…. and I still learned them all.
May 2014 bring you hundreds of thousands of new wonders and concepts and inspirations… so that your lives may be open, free, and joyously safe roads – with no limits at all.
And no tailgaters!!!