In the greatest motion picture ever made, 'National Lampoon's Animal House', a young actor made an auspicious big-screen debut.
Playing the role of Chip Diller, freshman pledge to the evil Omega house, he gave us such iconic lines as, 'Thank you, sir, may I have another!' while being paddled in the Omega initiation rite.
But for my money (and by now, why would anyone pay for it?), Chip (as played by the multitalented Kevin Bacon) delivered what may have been the greatest single line in movie history.
I refer, of course, to "REMAIN CALM, ALL IS WELL!!!!"
In his entire accomplished career playing all manner of characters, from a dancing teenage Iowa rebel, to psychopaths, crooked cops, a Marine Corps lawyer, stock market genius bicycle messengers, and daffy dads, K-Bake has never had the privilege of imparting a more fundamental human truth.
All kidding aside, remaining calm is a challenge, especially here in metropolitan Boston, and especially when we get our first snow of the year, which is expected on Friday.
As we are reaching that critical moment in annual New England hostility, er, I mean history, it's nice to remember to remain calm and that all is well.
It's nice, but it's not easy.
Every year it's the same thing. Twenty-five percent of us forget how to drive in the snow. To protect ourselves, we slow down to an unreasonable degree, leaving the remaining 75% of us who do remember to lose their minds.
This mind-loss is especially acute during the pre-holiday rush to get things done that are urgent because no one wants to 'ruin' a holiday by failing to deliver on their assigned errands.
Some less-well-adjusted folks become enraged while driving, risking life and property of all by-drivers with their antics, and working on their own stroke or heart attack from the stress.
Whether it's the stress of holiday shopping stops or of getting to the beach on the Fourth of July or of simply getting to work on any rainy Tuesday morning, some of us are wound up so tight that snapping isn't just possible, it's inevitable.
In real life, there are few options you can follow to retaliate effectively on someone who cuts you off in traffic. Road rage, though understandable, is stupid and dangerous. Screaming at people is pointless, especially when all the windows are up. Flipping someone off is juvenile.
I used to do all these things when I was younger and less-properly medicated. But what has stopped me from behaving this way, along with realizing the futility, is the fact that you don't know who you're dealing with. That sounds like a warning against 'crazy' people, and it surely is.
But what it really means is that the person in the other vehicle is having a day too. Yes, they may be a poor driver on their good days, but when distracted, they are better off getting an Uber.
While there are people who truly do not care about anyone else, and there are a few who enjoy instigating reactions from other people, the vast majority of us just want to get where we're going.
Some are afraid of driving in the snow due to an accident or other trauma they suffered in the past.
Some are heading to work, where being late one more time means unemployment.
Some are headed to the hospital to visit a sick family member or someone who's been in an accident.
Some just had a terrible fight with their spouse and the marriage is truly in trouble.
Some just broke up with the person they thought was 'the one' who they'd grow old with.
Some just found out they have a terminal illness.
Some are struggling unsuccessfully with drugs or alcohol
Some are so depressed that they don't care if they die, or they'd even welcome it
If one of your colleagues or friends had any of these things going on in their lives, you would not yell at them for jamming the printer or not returning an email or forgetting to go to a meeting. You would not threaten or swear at them either.
At worst, you'd leave them alone. At best, you might offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen or some other sincere encouragement.
But put that same person in a car, and have them go too slow or not go immediately when the light changes and they are fair game. Go ahead and tear them up, they are awful people who couldn't care less that you have a dance recital you need to get to.
Except, in virtually all circumstances, they are not awful or selfish or nasty and they're not even aware that they did something wrong. (Even if you lean on your horn.) Yes, they may be doing something dangerously stupid, like texting and driving, but you aren't going to educate them from your car. They may be receiving a text with some important or urgent direction that they feel they must risk it.
Whatever it is, you do no one any good, especially yourself, by exploding in traffic (or anywhere else, for that matter.)
The Bible says it like this (and about 25 other ways),
"A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated (Proverbs 14:17).
"If you stay calm, you are wise, but if you have a hot temper, you only show how stupid you are (Proverbs 14:29)
That's right. God (and King Solomon) just called your behavior stupid. What are you going to do?
So, as you're getting your snow brushes and shovels ready for winter, resolve that you will try to give the benefit of the doubt to those in traffic who upset you. Have some mercy on them, just as God has mercy on you.
Like every other annoyance, these types of instances are a test of our faith and our ability to extend grace and mercy to others, whether they deserve it or not. It's the right thing to do, and the Lord blesses the merciful.
God bless you.
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