I do not recall learning the safety measures for crossing the street as a child, but I am certain my parents can remember the process quite vividly. It must be terrifying imaging your child running out into oncoming traffic.
I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be now to teach your children these rules when so many people are dividing their awareness and attention between driving and their smartphone.
Just this morning, I was driving on highway 89 after my morning swim, when I noticed a young deer run out into the lane ahead of me. I watched as the car just in front and to my left slowed down (there are some people left who practice mindful driving). I slowed to a halt as I saw mom and three other babies all earing the median between four lanes of traffic.
I sat quietly watching and wondering. I knew they needed to get to the other side where there was access to water, but I had no idea how to encourage them to carry on their way.
Instead, a white compact came zooming toward them from the lanes in the opposite direction. I held my breath as the compact came to a screeching halt, followed by a large black pickup truck driving at top speed, which nearly drove straight into the stopped compact.
The deer family turned and ran full tilt in the direction they had come from, and I said a silent meditation that they would reach water safely and all in one piece.
You are likely familiar with the saying, If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?
Well, I am attributing this saying to the reason I have refrained from writing from a little while. I seem to be experiencing a decreasing tolerance for humankind, and I have not wished to write a super negative piece.
I used to say thanks for my life after driving anywhere in Massachusetts, and I could not imagine a place where there were crazier drivers; however, I have come to believe that good drivers may no longer exist anywhere because our species has grown so accustomed to thinking it can multitask on the road. There is less and less awareness and mindfulness and more inconsiderate, ignorant action being taken, and it shocks and terrifies me every day.
Being sensitive, I instantly take personally people’s lack of awareness. Being an attempting Buddhist, I made a vow to do my best to not engage in any way with other drivers on the road. I have failed to fulfill this vow already many times, but the important thing is that I am trying.
In other areas, I have begun to vow kindness over other less savory alternatives, with mixed results.
Many weeks ago, I encountered a fairly sullen, less than friendly lifeguard at the pool where I swim nearly every day. I was already feeling the stress that has been building for the past year as my husband sends waves of intention out into the universe for a possible path that will take us away from our lives in Arizona. This stress is always so near the surface that it seems to take very little to set me off, vows be damned!
On this particular day, I had just purchased a new month long pass for the pool, so I knew my name would not yet be entered into the computer when I went to swim directly after making my purchase. However, all of the lifeguards at the pool knew me, and they never asked me to bring a receipt as proof.
Surly lifeguard man did not even look me in the eye when I said I would not yet be entered in the computer. He simply gestured with a flippant wave toward the locker room for me to leave and not come back without a receipt.
I stormed back into the locker room, brought back my receipt, and shoved it in his face. You must be new, I had said in a tone dripping with condescension.
He studied the receipt, commenting that my name was not on it.
Do you want to see my driver’s license? I had asked.
Finally content that I was not attempting to swim for free, he let me go. I swam for my usual twenty minutes, fuming the entire time. I was irritated that he was so unfriendly. Beyond that, I was disappointed in myself for letting his attitude get to me and responding in kind.
As I walked back to the locker room, I had paused at the door and apologized for assuming he was new.
I have been here six months, he had said.
Six months? I remember thinking. Sounds pretty new to me.
Instead, I had responded by saying something about how six months was still quite a brief amount of time, geologically.
Ever since that unfortunate encounter, I have dreaded that he will be the lifeguard on duty when I go swim. After all, he is paid to save my life should something happen in the water. I probably should not have been so unfriendly.
Every time I went to swim and he was there, I tried to smile and say hello, though I rarely saw any kind of emotional response appear on his face.
One morning, I went to swim earlier than usual, and there he was.
How are you? I asked.
Oh no, late night?
He proceeded to tell me about how his girlfriend was an early riser, while he tended to be a night owl. He was trying to shift his usual habit, but with the addition of a Rottweiler rescue dog added into the mix, it had gotten a bit more difficult.
Tell me about your dog, I had invited.
And he did. He went on for at least ten minutes before I could ease away to get into the pool.
As I edged toward the water, I told him I was sorry I was so mean the other day. I said that I imagined he had to deal with cranky people all of the time.
He responded enthusiastically and that people would always get irritated because the computer was always down.
Having worked as a park ranger for the National Park Service for a decade, I was well aware of how pushy and entitled people could be if they did not feel they were getting their way as quickly and effectively as possible.
People think I’m mean, but I am super dedicated to my job, he said.
Well, maybe it is because your face makes you look like you are angry, I suggested.
Oh, he said. I call that my stern resting bitch face.
We both laughed.
Well, I said, I was really stressed out that day, but I should not have acted the way I did. I’m really sorry.
Now when I go swimming and he is there, I have only to ask after his dog, and he will happily chat away. It is like he becomes a different person entirely.
I think we are both better for it.
In conclusion, not all people are bad, and it is important to practice mindfulness…at the pool, on the road, and everywhere in between.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too!