I spend a lot of time in my car. Driving it. Waiting in it in school parking lots. Sitting in it at red lights. I know the tenacity of dust that settles into the miniature crevices of the textured-to-look-like leather dash and the crumbs of potato chips and donuts that somehow get sucked into the cavernous corners of the front passenger seat for which no amount of brushing, even with my fingernail, can remove. I know the timing on most of the stoplights (which yellows to run) on my regular routes. I know the chalky white of the salted road days after the last snowstorm and the tight curve of the on-ramp—the one I always take with just a little too much speed.
Were I to tally the actual hours I’m sure I would be agog at how much life I lose behind the wheel but, too, it seems to be where life happens, or at least how life happens for me and my family right now. Another Zen moment of transference; life’s meaning and a windshield full of road to run*.
With a few extra minutes the other day, I opted for the slower but more distracting route. I was sleepy and the rhythmic churn of the wheels on the highway might have been too much for my eyelids to contend with on a sunny midafternoon ride. Which is how I found myself at a huge intersection of Route 9 and some major cross street one town over. “Huge” meaning multiple lanes including the one for the left turn that I wanted to take. “Huge” meaning taking forever to cycle through the six or seven iterations of arrows and solids, reds and yellows and greens to get us all wherever we wanted to go.
An all-black, Ford F-150 was ahead of me to the right — in the lane to go straight. It had stopped short, as if there were two or three invisible cars in front of it, and clicked on the left turn signal, blinking in time with mine. I didn’t really see him at first. Not until he had rolled down his window, leaned out all the way down to his rib cage, and waved to me.
Before anything else registered, I noticed his smile, his shiny leather jacket, his gold chain, his shoulder length curly black hair, and then his multi-ringed hand energetically gesticulating at the space in front of me. Once he saw me see him, he pointed to my lane and offered a thumbs-up. I offered a thumbs-up back and he retreated back behind his shaded window glass.
That was it. But I loved it!
I loved that we communicated so simply. That we needed no words. That we had enough in common to make it possible for two simple gestures to help us navigate a potentially complex traffic situation. That we didn’t need the lights or any other outside force to tell us what to do or how to behave. That a thumbs up and a warm smile between two strangers accomplished not only efficiency but good will. The light turned green, he went left ahead of me, and I was happy for him to do so. It felt great.
The conversations we have with each other these days inside the Company seem to be more and more about kindness and good will. A recognition that there isn’t much else in our control but our very reactions to colleagues, trades, clients, neighbors, friends…perfect strangers. Be it the woman at the desk at Inspectional Services who lets us push through that last document out of order or the trade that runs two states up to get the only available stock for a project.
It’s our response to these small gestures that seems to count more and more. Frankly, none of us have anything else to offer right now. We can’t make supply chains supply or labor shortages labor, but we can give a thumbs up and a big smile to anyone trying to make any situation better. We can let them in.
That guy didn’t have to bother leaning out his window. He could have easily cut me off in his bigger, bolder vehicle. But instead, he opted to see me, smile at me, and connect with me. This happened days ago, and I am still feeling the good of it. So, you know what? Give it a try!
With light and love,