Monday was a bad day.
A bad, lousy, sad, intense day.
Our dear friend/neighbor called me in the morning to tell me that her dog, Gus—our god doggy—was very sick and that it was going to be his last day with us. We cried together on the phone. I felt helpless—me at work, her at home—but she had her human best friend there with her and I knew she wouldn’t be alone.
On my lunch break, I went shopping for a baby gift for a coworker whose shower was yesterday. While perusing aisles of baby cuteness, I ran into two girls from my office. One said, “Did you hear that someone bombed the Boston Marathon?” My jaw dropped.
I went back to the office feeling defeated. Gus was dying. People were dying. Lives were being turned upside down all around me.
I left work and prepared myself for the inevitable Los Angeles Rush Hour.
While waiting for the signal to change so that I could turn onto the freeway on-ramp, I had a revelation, and started composing a blog entry in my head. (This is a sign to myself that I really am getting back into the blogging game.)
I thought about cars. How they are like protective shells that hide us from the world. They provide us with anonymity. They muffle our voices. They keep the outside out and the inside in.
Maybe that’s the problem with rush hour. Maybe we have too much anonymity. Maybe we are too safe in our bubbles of glass and steel.
Maybe we should all approach rush hour as if we are standing in line for something wonderful.
When we stand in line, we don’t cut people off, flip people off, or honk our horns. We know that the line is simply a means to an end. We may get tired of standing in line, but we don’t swerve out of line and cut in front of someone ten people ahead of us just because we’re impatient. We may WANT to, but we exercise common decency and self control and we stand as patiently as possible right where we are.
It’s not that hard. Except when it is.
As I was merging onto the freeway, a guy in a Porche decided to cut in line. He swerved into the shoulder and cut me off right as I was accelerating onto the freeway so that I had to slam on my breaks and everything in my car went flying.
I reacted in the least graceful way I possibly could. I laid on my horn and flipped him off. He slammed on his brakes so that I would have to slam on mine again. He honked at me. I changed lanes to get away from him. He sped up to flip me off and scream at me. I returned the gesture and screamed back.
By the time I got away from Mr. Porche, I was shaking with anger—that’s when I realized that not thirty seconds earlier, I was creating this totally Zen approach to the freeway and that in the blink of an eye, I had blown it. I had let myself down.
My chin quivered and my eyes filled with tears, and the next thing I knew, I was sobbing in rush hour. Not just tears running down my face crying, but full on heaving sobs.
I cried and I cried for a good ten minutes before I pulled myself together. I cried for Gus. I cried for Boston. I cried because some days, NOTHING seems easy--NOTHING seems fair. By the time I reached my offramp, I was drained. Drained of tears, drained of energy, and feeling like I wanted to just collapse into Catch’s arms and never leave the house again.
Of course, it’s not that simple. We can’t just hide from humanity. We can’t even hide from ourselves. The evening went on. We went out for dinner. We comforted Gus’ mom for a few hours. We carried on.
Sometimes, that’s the best we can do.
Today though, I am going to try to stand in line on the freeway like I’m waiting for my favorite ride at Disneyland. Home is my happiest place on earth. The journey to get there deserves at least as much enthusiasm as the line for Pirates of the Caribbean.