I took the car from the parking lot in front of the grocery store. It was a congested street. On my right were two mini vans parked and on my left was the grocery shop from where I had just finished shopping. Knowing very much that I have to rush to the other side, I accelerated only to see that a three wheeler was coming in the opposite direction and then it stopped. I noticed that a couple of passengers got down and I was expecting the auto driver to go back. Clearly he was “in my way“. I had to be in time to get my daughter from tuition. Afterall a 3 wheeler is easy to negotiate around and it was only 100m away from the main road. In a moment he started advancing towards my vehicle and waved his hand to reverse the car.That morning, I had heard a speech from the writer David Foster Wallace. If I wouldn’t have heard that 22mins speech, I would have done what any man would have done – Got into an altercation and then show who is exactly right in that situation and who should give way for the other person. I did the opposite. I admitted that I was wrong, that too really fast and got into the reverse gear and gave way for the Auto driver.
A week back, I decided to reach the basket ball ground for my daughter’s practice by 8.30AM. Everytime I felt I was responsible for delaying her to get to the practice session on time. So after my morning run for 20 mins and a quick shower , I was ready to leave. My elder daughter said , “That was quick.” Before that she told me,”Don’t tell me that you are going for a run,” So we started at 7.59AM and also to my utter surpise we reached by 8.30AM. I felt happy that I accomplished my day. Then the realisation happened. I did take a route which was different from the normal ones. Of the 7 signals I had to encounter I got 5 of them greeen. I was not feeling good at the end as I had jumped the second last one signal. My excuse was that the vehicle in the front did not stop or may be it was faulty. I felt very low because I did it when my daughter was there with me and I was not modelling the right behaviour and civic discipline. I was so obsessed with the “finish line” that I “crossed the line”. I should have done enough care and preparation and that way could have avoided the rush. Also I was not ready to again become vulnerable in front of the coach , was basking in borrowed glory ( my wife takes that route always) and was not ready to sacrifice the morning run routine.
I quickly told my daughter before she got down from the car that I was wrong to have driven this way and in a reckless manner jumped the second last signal and so was not happy to reach despite the fact that we reached on time. During the journey, I also faced traffic situations where I was wondering why is that this man driving very slowly? I thought why all these slow moving cars were in my way ? My obsession was my possession.
I recollected a similar story from David Foster Wallace’s speech . He mentions that a person driving in a city has a notion that, “my natural default setting is the certainty that the situations like the traffic jam situations are all about me , about my commitment to reach on time and It seems all the other things are in my way.” It is deeply personally unfair as the whole traffic has come in my way.
I learned from this speech the whole notion of “What to think”. I was operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am at the centre of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities. So when it came to the auto driver my immediate default setting was that he should go back and I should move forward. But when I flipped my switch, admitting that I was wrong really fast , I got into thinking that he might have spotted a passenger just behind my car and that way he will earn his livelihood.
So instead of thinking ,”He was in my way” , I thought “Am I in his way”. That was simple awareness. This awareness is so real and essential and so hidden in plain sight all around us all the time that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over again.