When I was 16, I was a butthead on the road.

Like, driving inches behind people who wouldn’t get out of my way. It’s a wonder I’m still alive — not only crappy driving-wise, but that someone else didn’t ram into me out of pure frustration.

In my wizened age of now 29, I’ve learned a lot, both on the road and off. Namely, to be a lot nicer on the road because it’s very likely you’re going to end up at a stoplight next to that person whose bumper you rode for 2 solid miles a couple of minutes back. Now that I’m driving to Truckee from Reno for my job (yeah, sorry, I’m one of those people), I have a lot of time to think and occasionally to road rage — unfortunately still a little guilty of it, though I make sure to give a few feet
more cushion room these days.

A lot of my commuter’s thoughts circulate around how to not be so angry at others while driving. Giving myself plenty of time to travel and reach my destination on time helps a bit; listening to music or a really good audiobook/podcast, a bit more. But there’s no one size-fits-all solution to stem my annoyances.

Recently, however, the meandering traffic jam of my morning thoughts has been streamlined into this straightforward metaphorical highway: I’ve been comparing
my own frustrated efforts to get to/from work to my philosophies of life in general.
I hope you, dear reader, can take something away from the lessons I’ve learned over the repeated miles:

1. Maybe that person is actually in a hurry. You’ve heard it a million times — walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. My translation is, try assuming the best of people instead of the worst. That bro barreling down the freeway in his unnecessarily huge truck, what if he’s rushing to his daughter’s first-ever soccer game? Or maybe he’s speeding today for a more depressing reason: death, illness, injury. It’s a lot less exhausting not to rely on our meanest assumptions.

2. Stay in your lane. If there were seven billion versions of yourself inhabiting this planet, you’d have more room to judge everyone else. But there aren’t, and your thoughts and opinions don’t define anyone else’s doctrine. Love people for being them, not you. That’s it.

3. Give people space to brake. Just as 16-year-old Alex learned (and modern-day Alex is still learning), life is often the best teacher, and we don’t always need to honk our way into others’ lives to point out their errors. They’ll get there; you did, too, after all.

4. Camp in the mountains, not the left lane. (Cleverness courtesy of the Nevada Highway Patrol.) But really. Nature brings us all a better perspective of the majesty of our planet and the tiny drop of ocean we are within it.

Let’s all drive a little safer, a little slower, and a little kinder. And teach the 16-year-olds of the world not to be buttheads on the road of life.

Honk if you’re having fun!