Enjoy the Traffic

I just got home from a day on the road, traveling from Chicago to Ohio to visit my dad for Father’s Day. The drive is about four hours each way, so in total, I spent about eight hours behind the wheel of a car today. If I were a country fidgeting would be my national sport so you can imagine how that went. Several times—as is expected this time of year—traffic came to a crawl due to construction.

When the brake lights lit up, my first inclination was to get all worked up. How dare this traffic slow down on me. I have places to be! But as I started to get all Costanza, I stopped and thought “I’m not important. I don’t need to be anywhere.” I let go of the steering wheel, relaxed in my seat, and just enjoyed the slower pace of traffic.

And it’s true. I didn’t have a heart in a cooler on the seat next to me. No ransom money to pay to a crazed kidnapper. I was (and am) just a dude driving to visit someone. It dawned on me: why get all worked up if I get there a little slower? Nothing really happens if you’re a few minutes—or even an hour—late. Get in a little air guitar. Brush up on your steering wheel drumming. Take a picture out the window. Relax.

Once this sunk in, I started to think about how it applies to most other things where delays happen. Standing in line at the grocery store while someone—seemingly irrationally—buys 30 two-liters of soda. Waiting for a partner to just pick a damn restaurant already. Biting your nails while you wait for the test results (add your own context for flavor).

All of this anxiety and stress builds up, predicated by the notion that we need things to happen quickly, or at least, sooner. But we don’t. If things take a little bit of time—generally speaking—nothing bad happens. Even if something bad does happen, it’s not like you were going to get there to do anything about it. Why get all up tight about it?

A challenge—for myself, at least—is to pump the brakes a bit. Be willing to get stuck in traffic. Enjoy the slow points. Realize that everything isn’t a crisis, you don’t need to be anywhere, and you are totally, completely, absolutely unimportant (in a good way). Dare to go slow. Dare to be late. Stick your hand out the window and try to knock over some cones.