I was running late to a dinner with girlfriends last week when I came upon an unexpected tollway. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in a place where you don’t have to stop and pay up during a road trip, let me explain: In order for you to keep driving, you have to stop in the middle of the highway and hand over some cash to a person in the booth. They pop up everywhere in my neck of the woods, and if you don’t have the money to keep going, everyone behind you knows it and gets their panties in a knot as you fill out a long form promising to hand in your payment within a few days.
It’s happened to me a few times. It’s embarrassing, my titties start sweating, and I feel horrible for the cars behind me. Meanwhile everyone behind me is beeping and calling me names because I’m making them late.
Obviously, this is never intentional. No one sets out for a joyride saying, “Hey! I wanna piss people off today! I’m gonna hit some tolls with no money while blasting rap music and have myself a splendid day!”
Oh, but how soon we forget what it’s like when we are on the back-end of someone else’s misfortune. And by “we,” I mean “me.”
Last week, I was running late to a dinner with girlfriends I hadn’t seen for a while. My brain forgot what it was like to consider what someone else is going through before I go to impatient-town.
The car in front of me that stopped to pay the toll was taking a long-ass time and I was getting antsy. Then I was getting right pissed. Things escalated and I started slapping my steering wheel and rolling my head back in distress. I crept closer to their bumper for effect. I somehow thought the madder I got, the more it would speed them up.
Guess what, folks? It didn’t work. It did, however, make me more mad (and hungry).
I caught myself tangled in the middle of an asshole-spiral after taking a look in the rearview mirror to see how many cars were behind me to fuel my fire more. Only I didn’t notice the cars. Instead I noticed the reflection of an ungrateful, angry woman who was contemplating plowing through the toll on two wheels.
I hated what I saw.
I was being the pecker head on this fine evening because I felt it was more important to get to where I was going on time than to practice some patience and grace. Oh and by the fucking way, look how much better I am than you because I have my fucking toll money, motherfucker.
I didn’t stop to consider what this person may have been going through on this day — something I constantly try to practice and teach my kids.
Then I remembered this happening to me (more than once). I remembered the panic. I remembered the sweating titties. I remembered how horrible I already felt and I didn’t need the pecker heads behind me reminding me I couldn’t find my toll money.
I pride myself in thinking about others and what they might be going through because life is hard. Apparently I forgot these life lessons that night because I was hungry for some steak and wine with my girlfriends.
Being a dick is one thing. But being a dick to someone who has been in a situation you’ve struggled with yourself is a whole other level of dick-hole-ness.
I realized the nice dinner I had the privilege of buying and eating would not get up an walk away. I have good girlfriends in my life who will wait and understand if I’m late.
I thought about the fact this person in front of me may be a new driver, like my teenage son.
It crossed my mind they might not be able to afford the toll.
The memory of my son taking my nice stack of quarters and throwing them all over the damn car during a temper tantrum when he was four made an appearance. I had to bend over and dig for them while people slammed on their horns and thought if they practically tapped the back of my car while waiting for me to pay the toll, it would make me move faster.
I checked myself in that moment, and I can tell you the shame I felt for creeping closer behind the driver in front of me and throwing my body about in hopes they’d see my frustration made me feel more shame than the times I didn’t have the damn change myself.
Finally, the car moved along. When it was my turn to pay, the toll employee let me know the person in front of me paid for me because of the inconvenience.
OMFG, I’m such a miserable asshole, I thought.
So the only thing I could do to de–asshole myself was to follow suit and pay for the person behind me, and remember to not act like a spoiled brat when I’m faced with this situation again.
It was the reminder I needed to have some damn patience with people in situations where I feel my life is way more important than anyone else’s, because it’s not.
I will take a breath, remember a time I’ve struggled before I go bonkers, and treat people in a way that would have helped me when I was in a tough spot.
It was also a reminder I can be a jerk sometimes and it will be something I’ll need to work on forever— especially when I’m hungry.
So if you see me being an inconsiderate, impatient bitch, don’t be afraid to set me straight.
Please and thank you.
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