It's not every day you'd find me excited to be stuck in stopped-dead traffic.
But this wasn’t an "everyday" kind of day.
Just the other night, I was driving home from a friend's wedding, feeling great after having had an extra special role with my barbershop quartet Chameleon. It was a beautiful ceremony, and a great night, but I was tired.
My partner Kathleen, however, hadn't had such a great night. She made it through the ceremony, but then her lunch decided it would rather not have been eaten, so she ended up laying in the first aid office, consoled by a few episodes of Gilmore Girls. Not surprisingly, she was nervous to be in the car where a trash can was not so immediately available.
Between my sleepiness and Kathleen's puke-anxiety, we were eager to be getting home. Life, unfortunately, had slightly different plans for us.
We were making great time (while obeying local speed laws, of course), until we merged onto the 401, Canada's busiest highway. It was after midnight, much later than the rush hour traffic issues, so we were surprised when we slowed to a crawl, and then, after 5 minutes, ended up completely stopped. This was definitely not a “slow traffic” issue – the road was entirely blocked.
Another 5 or 10 minutes passed before we watched three tow-trucks, lights-a-flashing, drive by. I looked over at the cars in the express lane, just 100 feet away, zipping by at full speed. “What a pain! I wish I were over there...” But then I reminded myself that my position was probably preferable to many others' – the cars in the accident, for example. They'd be dealing with this for days, or weeks, I figured.
With the price of gas as high as it is, I was thankful to be driving a Prius, so the hybrid engine turned itself off when we weren't moving. Perhaps others were inspired by the novel trick (insert cheeky anti-idling propaganda here), because other people started turning off their cars too.
And something funny happened once they turned their cars off: People rolled down their windows. The driver behind me kicked her shoes off and put her feet up on the dash. Others even started getting out to stretch their legs. Kathleen and I figured we should do the same!
So we did. We got out and walked around a bit on the highway. Neato. It was a beautiful night, actually. We enjoyed the fresh air, chit chatted, snapped a few photos, and made the most of our time together – a time when life told us we had limited activity options.
Others seemed to be making the most of their time too: a few people walked down the highway or stood up on the concrete dividers, apparently trying to get a better look at what might be causing the problem. Some others actually started chatting with their newly found, if circumstantial, friends – the people from other cars. Some just paced while chatting on their cell phones.
I recalled a time about 5 years ago when my friend Dave and I found ourselves stuck on another major highway: We rolled down the windows and sat, bodies out the window, feet on the seats. We pulled out a handy deck of cards, and played a game of “Go Fish” on the roof my of car. It was fun. (Photo included below!)
And why shouldn't it have been fun? Well... okay, it could've been better. Had Kathleen felt less nauseated (fun fact – "nauseated" is different than "nauseous" – check it out), that would have helped. But all told, it was only 30 minutes of waiting. I've wasted more time than that making myself angry by reading ridiculous user comments on news websites. Relative to that, this was time well-spent!
Here's why it was good:
1. I wasn't the one in the car accident. That would have been worse. Much worse. Benefit to me: I was reminded (yet again) to drive safely and value life.
2. 30 minutes is not a bad time investment for a cool experience – “hanging out” on a major highway.
3. I had the chance to practice patience – slowing down and appreciating all the surprises life offers up.
I hadn't decided to be stuck in traffic, but I DID decide to enjoy the 30 minutes, even if it wasn't my first choice of activities. Making the most of it had been a good decision.
What will you do when you're stuck in traffic this month?
5 Years ago - Bad traffic on the 427 inspired a game of Go-Fish!
Photo snapped by a circumstantial friend who was wandering around on the highway too. Bonus fact: Dave was with Kathleen and I in the car this time too - but he slept through the whole experience.
August 29, 2012
"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
American Actress and Screenwriter, best known for playing Leia in Star Wars
"Back from a fantastic summer in Chicago, once again facilitating for National Student Leadership Conference at Northwestern University! Ready for another great school year, both in my speaking travels and teaching my university course: Engineering & Social Responsibility at McMaster University.
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Formerly called "The Beanstalk", the new article series "Excited to be Here!" is an account of Joel's unique travels and wacky adventures: Life is pretty exciting when you're paying attention.
Joel Hilchey is the Founder of The Beanstalk Project. An educator and entertainer, Joel speaks at events across North America, creating social change by juggling, storytelling, and playing with mousetraps.
To book Joel, contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
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