The War Going Home

When I drive to work, I’m serene. The traffic rarely gets to me. I don’t use my horn much. I’m largely unruffled. I enjoy the show “Take Two” on KPCC. My commute takes about 20 minutes. My ride is smooth without a lot of herky jerky. I’m fine.

I keep in my car a copy of the Torah book, Gateway to Happiness, and I usually read a few sentences before heading off to work.

I know that our willpower is strongest in the morning (and after we eat) but gets progressively weaker as the day wears on. As the afternoon rolls on, I’m increasingly impatient and ill-tempered. We only have so much willpower. It’s a resource like money. Once its spent, its gone until it can be replenished. You have to realize that as the day goes on, your willpower falls away so if you have something tough to do, you need to do it as early in the day as possible. After lunch, you’re not going to be as strong as you are at 9 am.

When I get in my car to go home, I’m often tired and cranky and frustrated and angry. My drive home — which takes 20-30 minutes — feels like a war. I feel like I’m navigating through all these horrible drivers. I speed and then slam on my brakes. I want to engage in the most dreadful stereotyping. I get upset with the slow Asian drivers. I get upset that people don’t drive close enough to one another. I feel like I can’t take much more of this. I just want to get home. I often feel like I’m on the verge of an accident. Tonight I thought this moron was going to hit me as he steered into my lane despite me having the right of way. I was shocked when I didn’t hear the scrape and bang of a collision.

I have a harder time being a mentch at work and on my drive home than about anywhere else in my life.

Road rage is a great measure of the quality of the program you’re working. If you’re really getting worked up as I sometimes do on my drive home, it shows you’re not working a strong program. I’m indulging the illusion that I can control the world around me when all I can control is my own reactions.

When I finally make it home and somebody is in my parking space, I want to hit the roof.

It takes me about 15-30 minutes to decompress and then I’m fine. I’m serene again.

As I age, I have less tolerance for silence. I’m not happy with my life and I don’t want to sit in silence and let my mind grind in on itself. So when I go to bed at night, I put on a book on CD or music to keep my mind occupied until I fall asleep. I typically wake up half a dozen times throughout the night and keep getting up to put on another CD until I can fall asleep again. If I just lie there at 2 am, I get angry and frustrated and that makes it harder for me to fall asleep. I don’t like my bed to become a battleground. I don’t want to fight to sleep. Best to distract myself with a good lecture or a piece of music until my mind turns off.

Pete* emails:

Dear Luke,

I am a native who learned to drive in L.A. If you have any experience driving in other parts of the country, drivers in L.A. are generally better drivers, and drive more aggressively than elsewhere. We also use our horns and turn signals a lot less. We depend on our cars and routinely extend courtesies to other drivers.

We also signal less but drivers here do more defensive driving which is how we get away both with less signaling and more aggressive and faster driving.

My wife, is not a native, and she gets very upset with other drivers.

I think the native Angelenos really only get upset with certain things because it shows the driver is not being considerate of other drivers. As examples pulling over to drop someone off or pick someone up in traffic. We don’t mind very much if it is done quickly. But if it holds up traffic while the people are slowly alighting from or entering the car or talking with the driver or taking their time with loading and unloading baggage, I get pissed. Same thing with people in left turn lane, not turning when there is a break in traffic, or not going far enough out into the intersection to let the car behind them be able to turn when the light changes.

However, there is the other problem which all of us have; that of being stuck in traffic. You are helpless. If there were another way to go you would have found it. All you can do is wait and wait. That saps the soul out of anyone.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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