Here’s an epiphany you don’t want

I lived in New Jersey from birth through 8th grade. My family moved to Vermont in 1995, my freshman year of high school. Though I learned to drive in VT, I was taught by someone from NJ, my dad. Also, I was from NJ. You can’t erase great heritage from your life (this is not satire or sarcasm). I figure I learned the NJ way of driving and not the VT way of driving. Of course, in order to pass the driving test I did need to know the VT turnaround, U- and K-turns wouldn’t suffice.

Driver sign language can be a real pain to understand

Driver sign language can be a real pain to understand

With this background you can now appreciate why I don’t go in for the courteousness of rural New England drivers. This supposed courteousness is manifest by yielding the right of way with a wave. Not much on the road bothers me more quickly than someone waving off the right of way. Right of way understandings are what help to keep the traffic flowing smoothly and safely. It is what gives us the expectation for what other drivers are doing and will do. If you wave off the right of way you gum up that process. I understand people are trying to be thoughtful, and in some cases it is very nice to let someone else go ahead of you, but at least consider your surroundings before doing it.

It is dangerous to wave the right of way. Other cars might not see what you are doing and try to move around you. The person you are waving to might become distracted by the unscripted act and miss something important in the environment. It’s a nice gesture, but in most cases it seems that waving the right of way actually slows everyone down more than if you just keep on course and let the right of way process sort itself out. None of this is important, it is still more background to my story.

Yesterday morning we were driving to church. At the end of the side street where it meets up with the main road is a T intersection. I was stopped, waiting to turn left. One car was coming from the left, two from the right. The one from the left passed, and the lead car from the right was turning onto the street I was on. He had stopped to wait for the car that was coming towards him. I waited for him to turn and the following car to continue on. This didn’t happen. I looked at the driver in the car with the turn signal on and he was waving for me to go. I gave him the obligatory “thank you” wave and pulled out. I said “I hate when people do that.”

That’s the point of this post: I hate when people do that. At that moment I struck the rest of the sentence and thought only the first part “I hate.” When we say we hate something this is the heart of it. No matter what follows, the fact is, we hate. I hate. I have hate inside of me. That’s pretty heavy. I was primed with introspection and self-improvement during the drive since we were on our way to church, so I kept thinking about this. Even as much as certain things bother me, I don’t want to be filled with hate. I then understood why parents and adults will tell children to say “dislike” instead of “hate.” I always figured it was semantics, but I think there can be more to it.

Where our thoughts go so do our actions. If I say I hate something I label myself has having hate. If I have hate then I’ll be motivated by it. I’ll hate other things, maybe other people and eventually behave with hate. My actions will follow my thoughts. I’m speaking very generally, and for most of us our character development incorporates strict adherence to societal norms, so we can manage our hate well, but I don’t want to have hate at all.

That was my epiphany, when I say I hate something the root is that I declare I have hate in me. I know I have the potential to hate, that’s part of human nature, I don’t know if I can rid myself of that potential, but I can certainly bring it under complete management. Anger, or the state of sensory arousal that comes with it, has positive function. In the case of seeing injustice we should be aroused to a state of defense. Hate has no positive function.

While I don’t necessarily want to realize that I am filled with hate, to whatever degree it is, I am glad for the realization because being aware of it helps me conquer it. Semantics or not, I think I’ll pay a lot more attention to how I express my dislike for things from now on.

About paulbrodie

I am a writer and a musician. My education is in psychology with emphasis in industrial/organizational psychology. My work experience has been primarily with electronic document management. Academically and intellectually I am interested in criminology and sociology. I am married to my favorite person in the world and we have one daughter.
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4 Responses to Here’s an epiphany you don’t want

  1. CC says:

    The blatant misuse of right of way, roundabouts, yielding, and four way stops is infuriating! Here’s the kicker – I did grow up in Vermont. I did learn how to drive here. Here’s the thing though, my entire family (and boyfriend) are all from MA. My parent’s didn’t teach me how to drive, but when I went to Boston I drove like a pro. I had no problem driving aggressively, and loved the proper use of right of way. We’re so hesitant here – it’s ridiculous. Perhaps you can explain psychologically why I drive better in Boston?

    • paulbrodie says:

      That’s a great question. From an evolutionary perspective driving style may be transmitted genetically, so although your parents didn’t teach you to drive “Boston Style” it was transmitted you to genetically. Jung might say your driving style comes form being tapped into the collective unconscious. You are in tune to the collective outside of Vermont, so you drive like the outside world. Cognitive theorists might say you simply think you drive better in Boston than in back home. My question to you is what is it about driving at home or in Boston do you think you do differently? The obvious explanation to your question is “when in Rome…” In VT when people are yielding ROW and don’t know how to handle the traffic layout the flow of traffic effects your perception of your driving ability. In Boston when traffic jams (jam meaning rock out, not traffic standstill, poor word choice on my part) along at breakneck speeds with little to no regard for anyone else, traffic flows! And when traffic flows you can drive unimpeded. You are less aware of what others are doing and more aware of what you are doing, which is getting to where you want to go in a timely manner without frustrating interference from other drivers.

      I really think it is all perception. When traffic moves poorly around you you feel that you are doing something differently than when traffic moves swiftly around you. Likely you are doing the same thing in both cases. Or perhaps in VT you are lulled into a sense of near sleep because of the scenic beauty and your state of mental arousal needed to drive like a pro is in hibernation. I think this is probably the answer. In the Boston area you drive like your life depends on it, because it likely does, so you are on the offensive and more alert and feel more in control. What do you think?

  2. Chris"TAL" says:

    Paul, I would agree that I do not have to pay as much attention on my routine commutes. That said, Bostonians simply aren’t hesitant. They just go. Vermonters are too courteous … that is where I have seen issue. On the flip side, 50% of Vermonters also speed and pass one another impatiently. Perhaps I just need a vacation?

    • paulbrodie says:

      I think that’s the key (not the vacation, though that can’t hurt) the flow of traffic. When everyone is going somewhere and working hard to get there, traffic flows. When people are plodding along and waving at everyone they see, traffic drips slower than the maple sap on a cold spring morning.

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