Sunday, July 17, 2011

In the Passing Lane

A beautiful sunny morning.  Driving around the lake on my way to work.  Feeling glad to be alive.  Two motor homes ahead going 55.  It’s 70 here.  Good, there’s a space between the two and it’s still a dotted line.  A quick check…no one coming for a long way.  I punch up Pete the Prius and we easily slide around the first motor home.  To give him room I end up coming back in on about fifteen feet of solid line. 
Uh oh, flashing lights in my rear view mirror.  Tribal police.  I pull over. 
Before he’s even at my window, “What were you thinking, passing there?”
(No “Good morning, ma’am.”)
“Hello, sir. You know it was a dotted line and I could see a long way.  I did end up coming in on a little bit of solid line.”  Hand him my license and registration.
“You have to complete your entire pass on the dotted line!  And you might have been able to see, but others might not be able to see you.”
“But, you saw me….around the motor home.” (Only thinking this…just a pleasant smile on my face.)
 “I’m only going to give you a verbal warning this time, but if I see you do that again you’re going to be talking to the judge!” He turns to his car.
“I hope you have a great day, sir.”
Over his shoulder, “Oh…you too.”
As I pulled back onto the highway I shook my head in wonder.  My response surprised me. The whole thing had actually been kind of fun.  I never get pulled over…that’s probably why he only gave me a verbal warning.  There isn’t so much as a parking ticket on my record.  But, the few times I have been in the car when someone else got pulled over, I cowered in my seat looking at my shoes.  Total fear of authority?  You bet.  Embarrassed at having flashing lights announce my traffic indiscretion to the other drivers on Highway 93?  Oh, yes. 
This sort of encounter would have totally ruined my day and I would have ruminated over it for weeks.  I would have immediately told as many people about the encounter as possible, recounting the officer’s rudeness and my calm responses.  His disrespect and my politeness would have intensified with each telling.  And through it all I would have tried to get as many people as possible to affirm that I was totally in the right and that tribal cops are unjust and that just because it’s Pow Wow week doesn’t mean that they have to pull people over for minor offences.  But, this time I told no one.  Okay, I’m telling you right now, but just you.  No one else.  And I don’t want absolution or agreement or commiseration.  I guess, because I just don’t need it.
Sure, I’ll be careful with the solid lines.  Was he right?  Yes.  But, the remarkable thing about this entire encounter was that fundamentally and inexorably, somewhere along the way in the past fifty years, I have changed.  I don’t always let fear dominate me.  I give myself a break.  And I’m sure of myself…more often on solid ground.  The way I view myself has become more important than how others view me.    Why did it take me fifty years to accomplish this?
Many of you who are reading this are probably wondering, ‘Geez, she’s making a big deal out of a little thing.”  Maybe.  But, it is often the small encounters that help us to understand ourselves a bit better.  I know now that I am much more often in the passing lane in life because of this confidence in who I am.  I take chances, meet more people; find extra enjoyment in life… simply because I am surer of myself and less worried about the rest of the world.  I like who I have become.  At the end of the day, I think that’s very important. 
So, I’ll pass those motor homes that are going 55.  I’ll respond to rudeness with a pleasant attitude.  I’ll see new sights and try new things and spend less time worrying about events that are not under my control.  After all, much more than half of my life is over.  I need to speed it up a bit. 
And if that means driving in the passing lane, well…so be it.


  1. Great reminder! This is how I aspire to be. Can't wait to get there! Aubrey

  2. Just never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly!