Our lives are busy and, being a social species, we regularly come to intersections of comings and goings with others. Every encounter presents an opportunity for reflection, is a chance encounter with some part of ourselves.

A blue SUV from the northbound lanes transitions into the right turn lane and is now facing east. Almost simultaneously a black sedan slips from a southbound lane into the left turn lane and is now also facing east. So, two drivers from opposing points are choosing to go in the same direction. There are three common lanes of separation between them.

From the perspective of myself and other patrons of a bistro patio, the sedan is crossing over two of the nearest lanes, clearly aiming to broadside the SUV, who is proceeding along the nearest right lane. The sedan has chosen to morph into righteously indignant. And, as we’ve witnessed all too often, righteous indignation means a distorted perspective – an entitlement to become aggressive.

The rest of us get the fallout. Having selfishly made a point (I have the right of way and all of these lanes are mine), the sedan swerves its nose eastward into the middle lane, accelerates and cuts just ahead of the SUV (forcing the SUV to slam on the brakes) and thus forces the SUV to go 15 mph in a 45 mph zone. Righteously indignant has followed an unnecessary act of aggression with bullying and has meted out punishment for a simple act of turning into the nearest lane, which was free of any oncoming traffic.

Here’s my perspective: there’s nothing “righteous” about unnecessary aggression – verbal or physical. There’s nothing that justifies deliberately aiming a car at another. Once on the road, we’ve all made a choice to take part in a communal act along communally owned paths. No one’s fooled when an overly pampered ego is clothed in a supposedly “righteous” act of teaching another driver “a lesson”.

The SUV chose not to escalate in its encounter with random violence. From that perspective, it’s a blessing that no gun was fired. No actual contact was made that necessitated police or medical intervention. Perhaps the perspective of the children in the car was never even switched from an unaware state. I prefer to think it wasn’t.

We bystanders thank the SUV. Late on a Sunday morning, “righteous” left us with an ugly reminder that violence is everywhere; that any one of us can be targeted at any point along our way. SUV, however, demonstrated that we can all choose a perspective that shows true strength (an inner restraint, rather than an outward show of power through aggression). Every day, with every action we take, we choose our perspective. We can support, protect and strengthen one another. We can choose a perspective of peace.

There’s still hope for our species.

Don’t Forget Your Mental Backpack

Don't Forget Your Mental Backpack

Forecasts for snow almost always imply white-knuckled journeys in the dark for me. I believe any driver would elect to have a car that drives well in snow. And I’m willing to bet they would rather not, if given a choice, have a car that picks a really bad time to have mechanical problems. Nevertheless, a couple of mornings ago, a car creeping along with the rest of us at about 35 mph began carefully edging to the right across three lanes of white, with its hazard lights flashing its distress. WHOA! A horn blares behind me- headlights approaching way too fast. The horn that startled me is now annoying, and I attribute the prolonged braying more to the idiot driver than the vehicle itself. The distressed car safely exits.

It’s a shortcoming amongst us that a perceived failing in another can engender annoyance, inconvenience, contempt or rage – even a will to do harm, when the other has suffered no harm to their self or loved ones. How many times have we heard the aggressor blame the victims of their actions?

People push against reasonable expectations and laws put in place to keep our encounters with one another safe and efficient. They ride too closely behind us, sending the clear message that even though we’re driving 10 to 15 miles above the generous speed limit, they have a right to go faster and we’re in their way.

We cannot choose the level of intelligence or maturity or good will we will encounter in others. Accept this as a basic reality of your path. But, while not being a lone traveler means encounters with the good, the bad and the ugly, traveling in the company of fellow path finders is also assurance that you’re experiencing what so many others ahead and behind are experiencing. They continue toward their destinations, usually meeting their goals and will return home at the end of the day. So will you.

Prepare and take your mental backpack with you every time you get behind the wheel. Create a sanctuary with music, a podcast, a favorite book. Phone someone who will listen sympathetically, make you smile, even laugh.

Most importantly, remember this is only momentary and then you’ll continue on your way.


Blind Spots


I remember riding in the backseat of an antique Chevy with a family friend.  Ol’ Blue was in the process of loving renovation by its proud owner.  Even though a pre-teen, I felt swallowed up by its dimensions, its solidity.  It was a true metal mass to be reckoned with, in comparison with the composite molding that makes up so much of our modern chariots.  But I still think of the car as an ugly beast.  I just don’t understand the attraction.  That’s a blind spot for me.

A friend of the family is in a well-earned, mid-management position.  So, he’s in conservative dress and wears a tie. Last summer, he invited us to an event celebrating his Hispanic heritage and a line-up of prized low-rider cars.  I saw the beauty of the culture and understood the fierce pride behind the symbolism of his tattoos (which are usually covered with his long-sleeved shirts)… not the low-rider vehicles, though.  Who would spend the money on hydraulics to bounce a car?  Sooo many other things I value more and would rather spend my money on.  Another blind spot.

Blind Spots

Not seeing the other guy seems to be the cause of so many of the needless conflicts we encounter on the road.  I’ve never seen so many blind spots as I experienced in an exquisite, very small and very expensive red convertible with a black soft top.  Besides the fact that the design of the car made me feel like my bottom and the road were one, I never worked so hard in my life to swivel my head this way and that.  I bet I craned my neck fairly close to a 360-degree radius in that pretty little lady.  I knew I was too, too small to make it out of any conflict alive – or free of intubation.  ‘You go your way, and I’ll go mine in peace’ was my mantra.  How could anyone drive something that left the driver so defenseless?  In my mind’s eye, I clearly recall the huge smile on my friend’s face, driving with the top down, the sun shining and a favorite line-up of music playing.  Heck, I remember my own huge grin.  Good times!  But, still…maybe my friend’s a closet adrenaline junkie and a chance meeting with sure mangling is part of the thrill.  I don’t know.  My list of blind spots is likely a long one.

The wonder of our age is that the majority of us can travel together, daily, without impeding one another.  We can just be who we are when we leave our front doors and then return to those respective front doors, without serious incident – even with our blind spots in tow.

My 2016+ goal?  I want to see you, value you as you are, with all of the differences I am lucky enough to encounter – both in the car and, especially, in the driver.

Cars as Insulators

Cars as Insulators

Glad of my car’s heater one early winter morning, I watch as a motorcyclist seamlessly weaves in and out of lanes.  Freeway magic happens when there’s a willing give and take between motorists.  No sudden flash of red from a brake light.  No strident horn admonishing a thoughtless or aggressive driver.  And this motorcyclist was practically gifted, riding the line between herself as a nearly-pedestrian, fragile human and we armored, powerful motorists.

As motorists, we’re insulated behind dashboard and glass, engine and headlights.  Within our private space, driving can be a mindless activity, so our thoughts drift with the currents of our day – with the planning of tomorrow and worrisome leftovers from yesterday.  Our agendas harry us and it’s not empty air the noses of our cars push against but time.  Still, every intersection brings us together with those traveling with us for a time, those we perceive to be going in a direction contrary to ours and those who travel a path seemingly totally disconnected to our own.  However, there are realities beyond that place where we find ourselves at any point in time, such as: We are never the first or the last; we will sometimes lead and sometimes follow.  Most importantly, we won’t get very far going it alone (i.e., someone has to run the fuel stations, tow trucks and repair shops).

Admiring and anxious for her at the same time, the weaving motorcyclist reminds me that each wheeled machine holds at least one precious, fragile human body in its mechanical palm.  We can tend to forget that it’s not really just cars and trucks we share the road with.

May we never forget we need to take care – of ourselves and others.


Hi, I’m Branwynne, a fellow traveler along the way.

Every week, I’ll explore the parallels between the encounters I observe during my life’s journeys and the human behaviors we all come across along the way of life.

It recently occurred to me that the stuff of life doesn’t just occur in an office, a court room or other enclosed space ostensibly separating one human drama from another.  Wherever people encounter one another, there’s a story – even while on the road.

Join me in discussing the stuff of life you observe along the way!