Friday, April 20, 2012

Right of Way

Two of my nephews are learning how to drive.

No, they're not learning how to drive their parents crazy - they've already mastered that skill!  They're learning how to drive a car.  And in a way, that's driving their parents crazy, too.

I feel sorry for the good citizens of suburban Detroit.  Not only do they have to endure the foul weather, rutted freeways, and corrosive politics of southeastern Michigan, but they've got to share the same roads as my fine young nephews.  I wonder if my brother and sister-in-law's insurance agent has already changed his phone number? 

Unfortunately, one of my nephews, in particular, is having an extraordinarily difficult time adjusting to the rules of the road.

Earlier this week, he and my brother were driving down a major suburban boulevard, and another vehicle further on ahead of them came to a stop in their lane.  But my nephew, behind the wheel, wasn't slowing down.

My brother does not panic easily, but he grew quite concerned, as they were rapidly losing time and space to take evasive action.

"Why aren't you slowing down?" my brother finally yelled.

"Well, I was already in this lane, so I have the right-of-way," my nephew calmly, yet illogically, reasoned.  It was as if the entire world knew that my nephew was navigating this lane of roadway and would acquiesce to his prerogatives.  My nephew, who currently holds a 4.0 GPA in high school, didn't understand that driving is far more complex than knowing who has the right-of-way.

Having the right-of-way is one thing, but you also have to be constantly accommodating the actions of other drivers.  Even if it means that you have to cede your right-of-way to avoid an accident.  Which, fortunately, they did.

It's going to be a long spring up there in my brother's household!

Even though a driver cedes his right-of-way to avoid an accident, that doesn't mean the other driver has "won," does it?  It just means that, particularly when other drivers do stupid things you have to avoid, you're the better driver for better recognizing the urgency of the situation.  Your reward may not seem glamorous - sparing yourself an accident - and indeed, you might get quite aggravated, especially when it seems you're always having to accommodate the bad moves other drivers make.  But you get to your destination in one piece, and life goes on.

Sometimes I think life itself is like that.  Especially the part of life that involves politics and public policy.

How many times do you feel as though you have the right-of-way in a course of action or policy decision, but you find yourself being confronted with a head-on collision if somebody doesn't maneuver out of the way?  People who get in our lanes of life may be there for no good reason, but don't we often find ourselves being the ones being forced to take evasive action, even when we're in the right?

Yes, the other driver who's obstructing the traffic flow in our lane may be stupid.  They may be belligerent.  They may feel a sense of entitlement, and then criticize us for feeling entitled to exercise our right-of-way, trying to accuse us of being at fault.

But what does the better driver do?  In such cases, they take the evasive action necessary.  As soon as they can, they maneuver back into their original lane, and continue on their journey as best they can.  Of course, the hope is that you can proceed far enough down the boulevard of life so that at the next red light, the wacko driver who pulled out in front of you doesn't catch up with you.

Then too, sometimes the lane the wacko driver forces you to switch into turns out to be not so bad after all.  Hey, look:  it even gets you closer to the turn lane you need up ahead!  Indeed, sometimes it takes a scare before we appreciate the little things in life.

Hopefully, it won't take an accident to learn how to important it is to navigate around the wacko drivers in our lives.  Both on real streets as we're really driving, and the bigger picture of our life experiences.  And our country's politics, too.

Not to say that once in a while, we'll be left with no other option except slamming into the obstacle blocking our right-of-way.

But at least we still need to slam on our own brakes.  You never know how much the impact might impact yourself.  Even if you it, you will want to be able to sort out the situation based on the facts.

Drive on, gracious road warrior!

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