I live in Southern California. I learned to drive in Chicago. And this is where I saw the first example of a beginning to World Peace.
Learning to drive in Chicago is a good thing. It helps cope with the random lane changes, slowdowns, and inexplicable brake lights that you find on the Southern California freeways every three seconds. Driving in Chicago, throughout all the seasons of the year, is a more daunting and skilled endeavor but surprisingly more organized and civil.
In Chicago, when I was younger, driving was a clearly shared experience. Side street shortcuts and caked vehicular chaos on every on-ramp are just two of the dozens of unpleasantries that every commuter in Chicago has to face.
When you grow up with this, you realize that this vehicular ensemble of interpretive movement is not something to complain about. Rather, it is an exercise-dare I say, THE exercise-in civility, consideration and patience. The collective disdain that Chicagoans have for traffic works almost like a spiritual adhesive. There is an empathy in this awfulness, and we get along better because of it. It was like complaining about the cold. We all endure it, we all think it stinks, and we are all in pain. We understand each other.
Being in traffic is the same thing.
We know how bad the other guy has it every morning because we’re that other guy. Whether you’re driving a BMW or a Pinto, you are all stuck in the same goo on the same freeways. We’re in this together. But Chicago drivers make this one tiny leap that makes everything change for the better: If you want you to make it a little better for me, I’ll do the same back at you. “You need to get in, go. I’ll wave you in, and then just move your ass. Hey, I need to get over two lanes. Don’t be a schmuck, just let me in. That’s the way, thank you. You’re not the asshole I thought you were going to be. You’re OK.”
I was taught that if somebody wants to get in front of you, it’s your expected duty to wave them in. Conversely, if you’re trying to change lanes, the other driver is expected to wave you in, too. Waving is an allowance, a consideration, and an expression of understanding. “Yeah, go ahead. We’re in this thing together. Just hurry up.”
I learned this from my mother. Any time you change lanes in front of someone or let someone change lanes in front of you, you wave. It was compulsory. This was not a choice. If someone lets you in, you wave. You let somebody else in, they wave. You’re sharing the road, remember. Sharing the road, get it? You say “please” and “thank you.” It’s part of what sharing is.
Back to my mother. She was an expert the whole waving thing. She was one of the politest drivers I’ve ever known. Yet, being with my mother while she was driving was a challenging experience. Every one of my brothers and sisters brought rosary beads and holy water to accompany us on the journey. This is not to say that at times she wasn’t an good driver. She could drive from Granville and Broadway to 500 N. Michigan in under 9 minutes. The only two people who could come close to that record are Mario Andretti or a helicopter pilot, provided both of them are actually in a helicopter.
The thing was is that she waved. To everybody. Somebody let her in front of them on the offramp, my mother waved. A school bus full of children on their way to school slamming on their brakes to avoid a 46 car pileup while my mother cut in front of them as she was changing lanes, my mother waved. Four lanes of traffic nearly crashing into one another because my mother went from the fast lane all the way to the slow lane in order to get on the Michigan Avenue offramp, my mother waved. She didn’t notice papers, coffee cups and her youngest boy thrown head first into the back seat as the 450 horsepower Lincoln Continental went from a dead stop to breaking the sound barrier. She just steered and waved. There were those times that my mother actually allowed others in front of her while driving, and they waved, too. Seeing my mother behind the wheel, there seemed to be a little fear and relief associated with their act of waving, but you get the idea.
But the cool thing was, apart from those near death experiences, everybody waved back or slowed down! To a person, each one responded with the same gesture or a little allowance, offering distance and space to share the road.
Waving in traffic, for just a moment, changes the emotional complexion of the world you’re experiencing. And in the context of traffic, the one place that we are all brought together, wouldn’t this be the best opportunity to demonstrate a gesture of peace?
Waving will do that. Let somebody in. Share your space. We can change the world, starting in traffic, one wave at a time. Change is supposed to start with us, right? “Be the change you want to see” as Ghandi said years ago? Start while you’re behind the wheel with the thousands of others congregating around you, sharing the same goal, the same sentiment as you. When else does this happen?
I want to be civil to one another, and I want you to be civil back to me. It starts in traffic. Let people in. And say, “thank you.”
Do this today. World Peace may be just around the corner.
By entrusting us with your feelings, we help you take steps that you see necessary to begin and put forth the energy to make the needed change.
Now notice something: Trust in a coach, mentor, or guide helps you see what's in front of you. We see a Coach for Your Heart a little like an emotional Sherpa, somebody that helps you climb your mountain by pointing out where to best step along the path.
Offices in San Diego and Denver, but will travel to meet onsite anywhere in the United States and the World.