On Monday a report came out from Texas A&M University saying that DC has the worst traffic in the country. Something to be proud of?
It reminded me that a gal in my small group Bible study had brought up the topic. She knew it sounded funny, but said: “I’m serious. By the time I get to work I’m so frustrated from crowded trains and annoyed from dodging tourists I don’t feel very Christian.”
She’s suffering from something called “Sidewalk Rage” – yup, it’s a real condition!
Probably anyone can benefit from reducing their commuting stress, but as Christians we are called to be “slow to anger” (James 1:9) and to “overlook an offense” (Prov 19:11). Easier said than done when we’re sitting in an 8 mile backup.
Why do we get so annoyed?
- We expect “best case scenario” – somehow I think I can get just about anywhere within my city in “oh, about 15-to-20 minutes.” Whether I’m driving across the clogged roads of rush hour or trying to take the metro in the middle of the day when trains are running on an “off-peak” schedule. Whatever your record commute time is from one place to another, it becomes your baseline expectation.
- It’s not a time you planned to connect with other people – there are times and places in life where we expect to have to be kind, professional and graceful. Commuting is not one of those times. Most people commute alone and see it as a kind of in-between space. You’re not quite at work and not quite at home and your greatest expectation of yourself is to wake up on the way in, and decompress on the way out. If something gets in the way of that (say, an obnoxious seatmate on the train) it kills you because you didn't think there were any demands on you during this time.
- People are inconsiderate – Sometimes it’s unintentional – tourists don’t know where they’re going. But sometimes it’s intentional – commuting can really bring out someone's true nature. People do cut you off on purpose, they do push around you on the escalator, and they do yell profanities (or use “sign language” to communicate from inside their car).
- We are inconsiderate too - Commuting can bring out my own true nature: I've cut people off. I've not let someone in when it was a reasonable thing to do. I've sighed and muttered at people who just don't understand you are supposed to "stand on the right and walk on the left - what is so complicated about that??" In the privacy of my car (or my head) I've said some really unkind things to strangers on my commute.
So how do you overcome your rage – whether it be sidewalk or road?
- Low Expectations/High Satisfaction – set realistic expectations for your commute. Both the time it really takes and what factors influence it. Where I grew up it was not uncommon to encounter a tractor taking up half the road going 7mph that would set you back a few minutes. Now I live in a city that has a reputation for becoming paralyzed any time precipitation falls from the sky. Be realistic about your average commute time, then give yourself a couple minutes of cushion. You may actually [gasp] get places on time!
- Budget grace for your commute – Realize that it’s not guaranteed “alone time.” You may have to interact with people. Be prepared to be kind. (And while you’re at it, budget some grace for the DMV - that place gives me palpitations.)
- Get over it – There’s no other way to say it. You’ll encounter jerks and it’s up to you whether you let them ruin your day or not.
- Knock it off - you aren't the only person on the planet who needs to get somewhere.
Set realistic expectation. Budget some grace. Ignore the jerks. Stop being a jerk. Simple, right?
What's the worst part of your commute? How do you deal with "the jerks?"