I would like to consider myself a relatively even-keeled individual, but I have to be honest: when I’m driving, people have an incredible capacity for making me want to grit my teeth, clench my fists so tightly my palms perforate, and verbally excoriate any and all things in my vicinity. This perhaps isn’t the best confession for an aspiring therapist to immortalize on the internet, but it’s the truth.
And it’s pathetic things. Like when the car ahead of me doesn’t stop right at the white line at the intersection when the light turns red. I begin to shiver with young seedlings of fury. I develop an entire saga of this person’s life, including events and circumstances that must have shaped their incapacity for common sense, reason, and basic courtesy. Just. Pull. Forward.
What does this accomplish? In the moment, I believe it contributes to the equilibrium of the cosmos. For every butterfly wing flap that causes a hurricane, every act of Matt-approved driving behavior serves to save hundreds from a mudslide. If everyone took to the road with just mite of consideration for the entire collection of drivers, the world would achieve the balance that the Buddha so deeply craved.
What does it accomplish in reality? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The five or six feet between the hood of the car and the intersection does not erupt in flames. The light turns green, and we proceed.
At least, so one would think.
Not only did this miscreant have the gall to stop far too distant from the proper spot, he had the utter audacity to hesitate and linger when the blessed green light at last showered itself onto us lowly plebeians, who for the last thirteen seconds have done nothing but pray for its arrival. A long pause, a sudden lurch, and an excruciatingly pedantic crawl forward, the despicable son of a farmer who was too often neglected by his pa and not properly trained in the art of communal cooperation demonstrated through miniature, intentional acts of efficiency finally meanders onward.
Livid, I curse under my breath—but in a moment of clarity, I elect to take a deep breath and enjoy the music that generously slips out from my car’s stereo.
No need to be angry.
Until a few moments later, when the oncoming light abruptly loses its crimson haze and shines its deplorable yellow. The farmer’s boy who lost his puppy in a devastating baler accident and never learned to love again slows, his brakelights alight with the unmistakable gleam of surrender. But then, he remembers his mother. How she cared for him. How she instilled confidence in him to take challenges head on. His engine growls ferociously, fumes sputtering from the tailpipe like they are the very demons of his past being exorcised from his soul. He barrels through the intersection, charging onward toward destiny.
I, however, having been forced to respond to his moment’s hesitation, roll up precisely flush with the white line, thinking about how this soulless maniac just thwarted equilibrium. And at the end of it all, I get home to my apartment thirty-six seconds later than I probably would have otherwise, and a mudslide devastates some poor village somewhere across the globe.
Matt Coldagelli (’14) majored in English writing and psychology at Calvin. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and adolescents. He watches an absurd amount of TV and is a certified craft beer snob. His emotional wellbeing is overly dependent on Wisconsin sports, and thus he finds himself often in a state of disappointment. Matt lives with his lovely wife and daughter in Phoenix, AZ.