To The Man In The White Tesla (or How Getting Cut-off In Traffic Became a Gift From God)

Dear Sir,

I don’t know you personally, but I want to thank you, publicly, for what you did for me today. It was far more important than you know.

As you’ll recall, it all started at the intersection of Goldsboro and River Roads, on the afternoon of Saturday, October 25, as we were making the two-lanes-left, left turn from Goldsboro onto northbound River. You drifted from the inner lane to the outer, as you made the turn, resulting in cutting me off in the outer lane of the turn. Let me tell you a little about who you cut off. I’m a man, who is having significant difficulty moving through this life. I suffer from fairly constant depression and have had a particularly hard couple of weeks. In fact, just yesterday, I was rear-ended on Wisconsin Avenue, by a woman, who was too busy talking on the phone to press on the brake petal of her mobile telephone booth. Out of the car, in that case, and asking whether she was talking on the phone, she muted her Bluetooth earpiece, looked me right in the eye, and said, “No.” I probably should have been flabbergasted, but I’ve come to expect such behaviors from the rich and privileged, who are driving on the streets of Bethesda, Maryland; their hurry more important than the hurries of anyone else around them. Work is hard, home is hard, and everything in between. You cut off an already very unhappy man.

You know what happened next. I, having suffered yet another of life’s constant indignities, the egregious offense of being dangerously cut-off in traffic, began to fly into a rage. I don’t often think of myself as an angry or rage-ful person, but, like I said, the past few weeks have been particularly hard. By the time I’d caught up with and was beside you, what had been a moment of rage had already subsided to an energetic urge to have you understand, if you weren’t aware, you had made a dangerous mistake. By the time I was beside you, your window was down, and only God knows, in a world full of road rage, where things might’ve gone next. I yelled, “TWO LANES LEFT!” and put up two (not one) fingers. When your hand came up to your ear, indicating you hadn’t heard me, it could, in any road rage situation, have meant something entirely different, further stoking an angry situation. It also occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, you were actually giving me an opportunity to be heard. I said it again, as we were slowing down to a traffic light… “TWO LANES LEFT!” Your response floored me.

“I know,” you replied. “I realized it after I’d done it, but I want you to know…” By now we’re sitting side-by-side at the traffic light and you looked right into my eyes… “I am really, very sorry I cut you off.” BAM! Life-changer. Faith restorer. Gift from God.

I don’t know if you’re religious at all. Spiritual, Ethical Atheist, or none of those things, but your apology was so sincere, so honest, so earnest, so direct and so audible, my rage ceased and my reaction was a visual “namaste” and a sheepish comment about your very cool car. You even went on to explain that, as cool as they are, Teslas have significant vision and sight-line restrictions. “Still cool,” I said, “and I want you to know just how much I appreciate your apology.”

The light changed and we moved apart. Perhaps that was the end of it for you, but as I drove away, I heard a quote in my head from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”… “So shines a good deed in a weary world” (which I’ve just learned originated with Shakespeare). So shines a good deed in a weary world. Sir, your choice to not react angrily was a good deed. Your apology was an even greater goodness. Still driving away from it, I felt my whole spirit lift. You are a good man. That’s what I strive to be. You might’ve even been an angel, driving a very clean, white Tesla. Your upstanding behavior was outstanding, and I felt the weight of weeks of darkness lift. You put me back in mind of the things that are truly important, and modeled a wonderful example of honesty, humility and calm restraint. Thank you.



Filed under General

5 responses to “To The Man In The White Tesla (or How Getting Cut-off In Traffic Became a Gift From God)

  1. E H Brooks

    Thank you for passing along this uplifting reminder that a small action can make such a difference. Needed this today!

  2. Pam Masterson

    I loved this, Andy. Thank you so much.

  3. Perfect. I try all the time to retract my claws and refrain from snap judgements and reflexive anger….I don’t always succeed. I will recall this lesson daily now and strive to act accordingly. Thanks, Andy.

  4. Lynn Ashe

    I am always awed at the wealth of grace that can be contained in a small moment.

  5. Steven Valsamis

    I also get furious when I get cut off. In time I calm down. This story reminded me that there may well be mitigating circumstances that I may not know and that I should follow St. James’ advice to be slow to wrath. Thank you for writing it.

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