Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slow Down

Recently, I received a citation.  No, not a writing award - a speeding ticket, my second in two years in New York.  I've received three tickets in my driving career, all of them in New York.  I've lived and driven all over the country, countless road trips have taken me through all fifty states.  I've even driven in Europe.  I commuted to school and work in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta.  Some of the worst gridlocks in the country.  But, all my tickets, all three, were received in the Empire State.  I don't live in New York (although I did live in the Adirondacks for a short time back in the 90's) but I seem to attract state troopers like magnets.  My first and third violations were for speeding when I was en-route to the airport to pick up my husband (I've been running late for that poor man for nearly twenty-five years now...sorry, Darling).  The second violation was for driving too fast on the way home from my mother-in-law's funeral...I had a hernia at the time, and it was killing me (no pun intended...sorry, Jane).  All three times, I was following the stream of traffic, but as luck would have it, I was the one chosen to be pulled over. 

But, that's not my real problem.

After receiving my last ticket, I did some soul searching and decided, I needed to slow down.  I drive too fast.  And maybe, even though others were driving at the same pace as me, that was no excuse.  This was karma, or a warning, of some sort, that something bad was going to happen if I didn't slow down.  Things happen in threes, I'd heard that my whole life and this might be a warning from above, a sign from somewhere, that if I don't slow down, something worse than receiving a ticket might happen.  I've been following the speed limit for several months now.  I've also been tailed, honked at, sworn at and threatened everywhere I've gone.

One man, and I know he was a man, even though it was late at night on a dark country road, but I could clearly see his angry face in my rear view mirror as he followed me so close, that I could no longer see his headlights, they actually disapeared under my car and I felt like I was towing him.  The speed limit was 25 MPH.  I finally gave in and increased my speed to 30 and then to 33 MPH.  But, that seemed to just make him more incensed.  The route was a tight, winding two-lane road through hills.  I was scared, to say the least.  And felt shaky and upset when finally, he made a right turn onto what I could only imagine was his street, where again, I imagined, his wife waiting for him, so she could start pushing during her home water birth, which he was now late for, since he decided to finish his emails at the office before getting stuck behind me.  Why else would he be so tense?  Why else would he have been so mean?  It had to be something very important that I was keeping him from...right?

I've been nearly run off the road by teenagers, elderly people, Mom's driving vans full of children, school buses, and I was even tailed closely by a policeman in my own town.  People!  I'm going the speed limit.  It's posted everywhere!  And I'm going to continue to go the speed limit.  On the Interstate, I now travel in the slower right lane.  Semi-trucks whiz by me, tour buses fly by, late date cars that look like they are barely running, speed by me.  I've been passed, given the finger, spit at, and almost side-swiped.  I was even passed-up on a two-lane road by a student-driver, the instructor looking very satisfied, as they passed by, like I'd given him the wonderful opportunity to teach his student how to pass a slowpoke.  He was the only person pleasant to me since I started going the speed limit.  I won't tell you what the farmer on a tractor yelled to me, when he pulled up next to me at a traffic light.  It was not pretty.  In all these cases, I increased my speed by five miles per hour, as soon as I was being tailed and sometimes as much as ten miles per hour.  I've come to find that once someone is tailing you, they make a commitment to continue the harrassment even if you speed up.  Did I do this to people too?  Probably.  But, I don't do it now.  I'm careful to keep a safe distance between me and any cars in front of me.  And when I do come upon a fellow speed limit participant, I feel so happy that for the moment, I'm not alone and we can travel together, going the speed limit, like two safe ducks in a row.  Here are some things I practice these days:  

  • Leave with plenty of time to arrive on time
  • Enjoy the sights along the way
  • Listen to my favorite music
  • Pull into a parking lot if I need to use my phone, even though I have speaker capabilities
  • Feel no pressure when I see traffic is slowing to a crawl
  • Realize the NYC bridges don't feel so dangerous when I'm driving at a reasonable speed
  • Patiently wait in long toll lines
  • Stop at every crosswalk where there is a pedestrian waiting to cross
  • Not stress when a train is passing
  • Handle any weather conditions with ease
  • Enjoy a lower heart rate along the way
  • Arrive calm and ready to do what I need to do at my destination

Granted, I've had to learn to ignore angry, irritating fast drivers, passing me, giving me 'the look', cutting me off (no problem, I account for them and apply my brakes a bit to let them get by).  I will admit it was hard at first, I do care what people think, but in a way, driving slower, has helped me not care so much.  Slowing down has made me see the world differently.  I see the beauty of the land around me and find my way easier, because I don't whiz past streets I was supposed to turn down.  I'm calmer.  I'm actually on time more often than not now.  My heart rate feels normal all day, not racing all the time.  I have more energy.  I find myself parking further away, because I have the time and therefore get more steps into my day.  I take the stairs more often now and hold the door open for other people.  I generally feel nicer and happier.  Try it for a week, then for two, and before you know it, you'll be slowing down too.  It's not such a bad thing.  It doesen't make us more important to be rushing about, in fact all it does is put us in danger.  Danger of an accident, or an anxiety attack, our hormone levels shoot up and crash back down making us sick.  Just slow down.  Leave early.  Go the speed limit.  And if not, please just go around those of us who are going the speed limit, who have chosen to listen to the warning and slow down.  We're not trying to make you crazy.  We're just trying to get there in one piece, and maybe avoid another ticket or worse yet, an accident.  

If only the whole world could slow down with me, so I can get home safely to my life on the lane.

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