For some time now, I’ve been learning to drive more courteously. That means allowing people to make left-hand turns so the cars behind aren’t stuck waiting, letting people into traffic and out of their parking spots, not racing up on someone’s back bumper, and generally helping other drivers and the flow of traffic, even if it means sharing my right-of-way, giving someone else the benefit of the doubt, or ‘losing’ a minute.
Then I began to wonder, in the scheme of things was I really making a difference? Did my courtesy matter? So, I decided to test it. For a week, I drove with the assumption, “Let the other guy be nice instead.” What I found out was interesting.
First of all, letting someone else do it, didn’t mean someone else would do it. Watching in my rearview mirror after not allowing someone to make a left, I would see a long line of cars stuck while that driver waited for an opportunity to make his turn. Often, when I didn’t help, neither did the person behind me.
Letting the other guy do it didn’t assure it would be done and it didn’t leave me feeling as good. However, looking for a reason not to help, I always found one. It wasn’t hard to rationalize that there wasn’t time to wait or that it felt awkward to make those behind me wait (sometimes cars would beep) and believing it wasn’t my responsibility got easier every day.
By the end of the week, it wasn’t an experiment anymore because I had ceased to see the opportunity to be courteous. Now I was just hurrying along with only my interests in mind and nobody else mattered.
It wasn’t simple to end my test and go back to driving courteously again. Not caring about others was easy to do, almost natural. Within a week I’d simply stopped noticing other drivers in need. Switching back took a conscious effort. I had to work at it and learn again to see where I could make it easier for others.
So, why did I bother going through the trouble of be courteous again? Because it made me feel better and more relaxed. I wasn’t in such a competitive state of mind, always in a hurry. Having time to help others actually gave me more time. Besides, those happy smiles and friendly waves of thank you made my drives more pleasant and that made them seem shorter.
What did I learn from my experiment? I learned courtesy was a gift I gave to myself by sharing it with others. I also noticed what happened with the people I was courteous to. Many payed it forward as I saw them being kind to others. What a wonderful thing, courtesy is contagious.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident and being able to help others makes it easier on ourselves.