Being nice on the road is powerful

What a blessing it is to be alive!

The rising hint of sun and pink sky

The blue mountains etched with grey

The cold air in my nostrils

No coffee is too hot to drink in this cold morning. The steam from my mouth unfurls with refreshing vigor.

The street along the train station parking lot is often packed with cars heading toward an adjacent freeway entrance. There’s a left turn lane to turn into the lot, and I have to wait until it clears a bit to make the turn. The drivers heading in the opposite direction are in queue for a stop sign at a three way intersection up ahead. They don’t usually move very fast, but I used to have some trouble getting through. People wouldn’t stop, and sometimes they would speed past but end up blocking the entrance. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets a little stressful when I’m trying to make a train.

Well, from my road experience, especially in Los Angeles but also in the Bay Area, I found that it’s often more powerful and multiple times less stressful to be nice. This sounds like horse poo but really this is true for me.

For example, when I need to switch lanes on the roaring 101 freeway toward downtown LA, and there’s a driver parallel to me in the lane I need to get to, I could speed up and slide in front of that car, causing a bit of excitement and cheap pride on my part, and some stress and worry on the victim’s. That’s if my plan works easily. If the other driver is also doing what I’m doing, playing the domination game, speeding up too to block me out, well then both of us end up stressed regardless of who “wins”. Assuming we both make it out alive. When you’re dead, well, there’s no stress.

Alternatively, I could simply let off on the gas as I check the mirror, signal and check over my shoulder, and slide in behind the car. Stress on me? No. Stress on the other driver? Quite the opposite.

Here’s another one. I’m in a traffic jam and need to switch lanes, and signal and do the shoulder check and all that. Then the driver in the car the next lane over slows down and makes space for me to switch. What a cool gal. Before I go zooming off, I give a big wave long enough for her to see. Whether she actually sees the gesture or not, I don’t know, but I do know that every time someone’s given me that wave of gratitude I get good vibes. It totally acknowledges what I’ve done for the person, and reinforces that behavior in me. All that, for such a tiny move!

I’ll also say how cool it is for someone who has the right of way, or has the road advantage, to give the small gesture to go ahead before them. It comes as a nod, a slight wave, even a finger point in the direction you want to go. These are cool moments, quite heroic in the way that can’t be forced, admirable. Tiny, tiny gestures, but great actions. World-changing.

Back to the train station entrance. Today I wasn’t in a great hurry, thanks to good hustling upon waking, but I was ready for a little bit of friction as I neared. Lots of cars as usual, and as usual one driver that was in a position to help me did not. No worries, I waited for the wildebeest to pass. The car behind them was stopped. Not only that, but this person actually signaled for me to pass by flickering their headlights! Not high-beaming, which even with good intention can be obnoxious, but switching the lights off then on. What a subtle yet graceful move! Simple and brilliant.

I gave a good, long wave of acknowledgment as I passed. What a winner there. To be nice is one thing, and in itself it’s something to be admired and acknowledged. It is good for the world. To be nice with good taste, that is skillful and extraordinary.

Who would think to flicker their headlights off and on, rather than high-beam? Very few people. But now there are two of us at least.

Kind actions are often subtle, quiet, and in a funny way, embarrassing to the beneficiary because they’re vulnerable. They are like gifts and in a culture of independence we don’t like to receive unsolicited help. Many of us don’t even know how to receive. But we can learn.

Live powerfully.

Feel free to share your experiences, questions, and inspirations here

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