If you served in the military, you are familiar with the saying, “Hurry up and wait!”
It is a common reference to one echelon of command setting a time to start or meet; followed by a lower echelon of command setting a slightly earlier time to ensure no one is late. Repeated several times over, this can have the absurd result of individuals showing up incredibly early, only to find themselves waiting. I suspect other occupations have similar occurrences.
This came to my mind about a month ago when I was commuting to work. Just after turning onto a long straightaway, I noticed a black sports car in my rear-view mirror. Fast approaching, it weaved in and out of traffic and quickly passed me.
Very shortly after, I noticed the light ahead of me turning yellow and then red. The car sped along and then abruptly came to a stop — waiting.
As I approached the intersection, the light turned green, and all the traffic moved forward. The black sports car hurried along and again weaved in and out of traffic. At the next light, the scenario repeated itself.
At the following light, it and all the traffic made it through the green light. The car disappeared over an overpass, and I thought, I pray that whoever the driver is, they get where they are going safely.
However, as I came to the top of the overpass, I noticed that the game was still afoot as the black sports car was again stopped at yet another light. As I slowed and came to a stop, the light turned green, and the car was off again like a shot.
As it hurried along, I noticed it made the next light but, in the distance, I could see the following light turn yellow ahead. My observations ended as I took a left turn to my morning destination. I said another prayer for the driver and all those on the road that day for patience and safety.
The whole time, I thought, “This person is hurrying up to wait.” Not imposed by anyone but themselves. To be fair, I have been there. I need to be somewhere; I did not plan enough time and I am looking for opportunities to get to where I am going a little less late than I would be otherwise. A little planning goes a long way; certainly, aggressive driving is never a good option.
This entire experience took place about a year after my youngest son, 18 years old at the time, and I were on a 12-hour road trip. Along the way, we were conversing about several different topics. In this instance, we were discussing morality in terms of absolutism, relativism and tolerance.
I used an analogy of traffic citations as I hear a variety of reasons why individuals speed. The topic wrapped up and what followed was a few minutes of silence.
A few minutes later, he asked, “So dad, why do you speed?” Taken aback a little, I looked at my speedometer to verify the statement, and I was in fact going 67-mph in a 65-mph speed zone. I immediately started justifying.
“Well, this is a rural-highway, and I am using cruise control, and I am only going two miles over the limit.”
Hearing the irony in my own answer in relation to the previous discussion we were having, I surrendered the point.
After a few weeks without ever developing a satisfactory answer to the question, I resolved to follow the speed limit or go under. At first, it was a bit unnerving and required that I adjust not simply my speed, but the way I looked at traffic situations.
When coming up to an intersection for example, I can slow down in anticipation for the light to change instead of speeding up to clear it before it changes. When approaching a slower vehicle, I can slow down and really evaluate the need to pass instead of instinctively passing.
On the anniversary of this driving habit change, I have found it to be quite liberating. I no longer bemoan approaching a slower vehicle or a traffic light. Instead, I notice other things that I was previously missing.
In a way, this column is simply a new take on an old lesson. Walter Hagen wrote, “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
A few lessons for me: You are never too old to learn a better way. You can learn a lot from an honest and open conversation. Teenagers do not get enough credit for possessing their own wisdom.
And while slowing down does not ensure you will not have to stop at a traffic light, taking control is better than being controlled. Be safe out there!
(Magistrate Judge John R. Chavez is the magistrate in Belen. He is a native of Valencia County and is a retired U.S. Army colonel.)
Judge John Chavez, guest columnist
Magistrate Judge John R. Chavez is the magistrate in Belen. He is a native of Valencia County and is a retired U.S. Army colonel.