I typically leave for work early enough to beat the morning traffic, but on this particular morning I had a late start. Because I don’t usually come upon slow downs at my usual time, that morning I didn’t know if the slow traffic was typical or something bigger, like an accident.
There are three lanes heading downtown with the far left lane reserved for left turns only. Surely everyone who is on that road at 7:15 on a weekday morning is aware of the traffic patterns. They know that the left lane is for left turns only. They have to know that…
During this slow down, I did my best to mind my own business and just enjoy the opportunity I had to sing along to the music with the windows cracked. I really tried not to let myself engage with the annoyance of this traffic.
Except, as I was sitting there in the middle lane watching the cars in the left lane zoom by, I started to wonder out loud: Are all those cars really turning left? Don’t they know that’s a left turn only lane?
As much as I wanted to pull into the left lane and make all those people stop and force them into the middle lane where I believe they belonged, I didn’t — I stayed in my lane. Literally.
We came around a bend and I saw flashing lights — so that’s the reason for this backup. An accident or something. By then I started to notice some of those cars ahead in the left lane had their right turn signals on. No you don’t! Don’t let them in! They cheated!
I began to wonder why those people felt like they shouldn’t have to sit in the long line while the rest of us did. I began to wonder why they felt like they were better than the rest of us or that their time was more important than mine. Didn’t they realize that by jumping ahead and cutting in line, they were actually making the backup worse?
I was fine with the cars in the right lane coming over — there wasn’t much warning that the lane was blocked. The left lane drivers trying to merge into the center lane, however, did not receive as much grace from me. In fact, when someone did let a left-laner in I found myself yelling, Nooooo! Don’t reward their bad behavior!
What is it about traffic? About following rules? About breaking common courtesies? All the while I’m singing: Sure on this shining night. Quite a juxtaposition!
We were almost to the stoplight, passing the police cars when I saw a child’s toy on the back of one of the cars. Oh my God, no.
I briefly saw a police officer holding a little boy, maybe three years old. Oh thank God, he’s okay.
Then I caught a glance of an older man sitting on the curb, his hands cuffed behind his back. Wait, what?
The traffic broke free and we were all on our way, moving at the recommended speed after quite some time barely moving. Everything was back to normal. Except that it wasn’t. I couldn’t get the image of those blonde curls out of my mind.
My eyes began to tear up but I wouldn’t let myself cry. I’ve been fighting some sinus issue and the last thing I needed was more drainage (actually, I wonder if crying might really help, now that I think about it…).
I thought about that little boy and how someday he may forget about this moment on the side of the road. He may not be able to recall the story, but it will be there in his bones, in his muscles, in those blonde curls.
Again I felt the words — cheating and not fair and nooooo — rise up in my throat, in my heart. I thought about the last episode of The Big Bang Theory and how Sheldon said “any idiot can have a baby.” (He redeems himself later, but wow, that really stung.) I thought about fostering and adoption and how there are so many hoops to go through but babies are born every day to people who probably aren’t in the best place, physically and emotionally, to be raising children. (Not that I’m in any place to judge.) I felt the ache of infertility rise up in me once again.
All in one drive to work.
It was exhausting.
And yet, it was a good lesson to learn about staying in my lane — figuratively this time.
There are a lot of unfair things in this world. There are a lot of people who only think about themselves.
There are also police officers who hold young, scared children with tender embraces. There are friends who text comforting words after a painful encounter. There are people all over the country who come together for a virtual meeting bringing joy, love and comfort to each other’s lives. And that was just today.
There are sunrises and sunsets each day, even when the clouds get in the way.
I can’t fix traffic except to do what I know is the right thing. I can’t fix families. I can’t move forward with other people’s dreams for me and my life. I can’t be who someone else thinks I ought to be.
I can find peace in the moment, even with the moment feels anything but peaceful. I can look for the good. I can reach out for support. I can stay in my lane, doing the next right thing for where I am right now.
My lane has felt really slow for the last two years. Like I’m in one long back up. I’m waiting for the traffic to break, for everything to get back to normal. Except I know it won’t. It won’t go back, but maybe a new normal will begin to emerge, maybe a normal I never could have imagined. And to get there, I think I’ll stay in my lane and patiently wait for it to open.