I almost honked.
And then, at the last second—as my hand was hovering over the horn—I saw the newsboy cap and white hair atop the driver’s head.
And I smiled sheepishly, mildly chagrined. When the elderly man stepped out of the car, ever so slowly, I motioned to him to cross the parking lot, ahead of my car.
Oh, our self importance. It’s not pretty, is it?
I was racing through the drive-through that morning. Trying to get my youngest fed and to school, myself back home in time for an early call. My mind was filled with to-do’s, kids’ schedules, dinner plans, deadlines. The motley assortment I’m sure fills many of your minds on a typical weekday.
So, when the driver in front of me crawled through the fairly empty parking lot, braking erratically, it did not take long for my frustration to rise. HE was making ME late.
Until I put a human face on that HE. As he climbed out of his car, wheeling his oxygen tank behind him, I am sure my son heard my sharp intake of breath. He looked to be in his eighties, newsboy cap perched jauntily on his head—just like my dad at that age. And the collared khaki windbreaker, the oxygen tank—just like my dad.
I remember the last year my father drove. He was in his early eighties then. Always a good driver, he was still decent on the road but had to take his time. Reflexes slow. I cannot tell you the number of times I heard someone honk at us, as I sat in the passenger seat that last year.
Each time, my father would redden and become flustered. The man who never thought of himself as old was feeling old. He hated feeling like he was not keeping up or was viewed as a hindrance to other drivers.
But he still put himself out there in the world, because it meant the difference between sitting at home alone watching far too much TV and feeling like he was still part of the human race. His trips went from cross country to the corner drugstore or post office, but they still allowed him to feel like an active participant in life.
As a passenger in his car, I wanted to scold the other drivers. If they could see what holding back a second of impatience would have done for him, I hope they would have refrained from honking.
What does any of us have to do that makes us so very important? Are we racing to the hospital? Saving a life? Not likely. We’re taking our son to school and heading back home for a run-of-the-mill conference call. Or some such mundane thing.
And there I was, in a parking lot, about to honk, impatient in my self-importance.
But I did not. The Universe reminded me I had a choice.
I am so glad.