I was walking to my parents’ house one evening when I saw another pedestrian crossing the street ahead of me at a 4-way stop. A driver came up and stopped where the pedestrian was crossing in front of him. In the span of 2-4 seconds, his expression changed dramatically from somewhat neutral to visibly agitated. He eyed the pedestrian and hit the accelerator as soon as there was enough clearance.
I don’t judge him personally. He might have needed to attend to a medical emergency and get there as quickly as possible. I do know, however, that it’s a common enough occurrence to suggest that, many times, a lack of patience is what aggravates drivers when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists. A motor vehicle is capable of travelling fast, and perhaps it’s thought that someone who elects to travel by slower means shouldn’t get in the way of our powerful machines. Our lack of patience can lead to aggression, and we’re filled with a false sense of power, as though we’ve melded with the vehicle and its strength has been transferred to us.
Incidents like the one above remind me of a poster of quotes and observations that my dad acquired and put up on our bulletin board at home some 15 years ago. It had sayings like, “Buy a used car with the same caution a naked man uses to climb a barbed wire fence,” and “Don’t stop the parade to pick up a dime.” Though I can’t recall the wording exactly, there was one observation that comes to mind when I think about patience: “Before, when a man missed the train to go into town he would patiently wait a week for the next one. Today, a man shouts angrily if he misses his turn for the revolving door.”
When something becomes easier by means of advancement in technology, our patience decreases while our expectations increase. Where once our ancestors travelled across countries on foot and cooked over fires made by hand, we now complain about 30 minute flight delays and runny microwave pasta.
When patience begins to wear thin, pause. Reflect on the incident’s impact on the greater picture. When we look at things from the macro level, we often see just how insignificant these incidents are. Take a breath, realize that everything really is alright, and smile. Smile genuinely, as it releases endorphins and serotonin (feel-good hormones) and inhibits cortisol (stress hormone). Move forward with a renewed sense of calmness.