Beep beep

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.

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53 Comments Add yours

  1. I never realised how much honking was present in Mumbai streets till I arrived in Auckland. Wow, never knew there could be silent streets

    Great post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Amazing, isn’t it? 🙂 We all come with pre-installed filters and when those are removed, it’s a whole new world. I remember thinking I knew rush hour–until I moved to Chicago, Then I realized I had never known a REAL rush hour:). Hope Auckland is treating you well and that you’ll be home soon for some of your mother’s cooking in Mumbai!

      1. Haha yeah thanks Kay!

  2. I could empathise with this as I have been there too and although I am retired now I still catch myself racing around as though I have drastic time lines and it’s only a volunteer meeting and if I am a few minutes late no ole will worry. Those slow or erratic drivers frustrate us but I loved your words about the man and your dad and I will try to remember not to honk my horn so much

    1. candidkay says:

      I think we could all benefit from being more like our European friends. They enjoy life as it comes, slowing down, in a way we don’t seem to . . .

  3. shunpwrites says:

    Very prescient, this will give me pause next time I have the inclination to honk.

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly have honked less since:). Gave me pause.

  4. marlene frankel says:

    Time. Take time. Make time. Rush. For what? I’m not always patient, but lately I see more impatience from friends when we are stuck in traffic, on line in a store, or locating a parking space. I just take this as a time break and chill.

    1. candidkay says:

      You are wiser than many of us then :-). If only we could all take a page out of your book!

  5. I love this because of the field in which I chose to work… I love this for it’s honesty and self reflectiveness on how we chose to stop before we react to the thought in our head.
    You are just an amazing human!

    1. candidkay says:

      Every once in a while, I get it right :-). Just like all of us do. I think what you do for people on a daily basis is amazing!

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    I like the way you take a moment most people wouldn’t think about twice and reflect on it, detail it, until you make a larger, universal point. You do it so well: making the seemingly insignificant significant. I appreciate your writing.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words. And I am so glad the larger universal point comes through the details. That can sometimes be dicey when you write, as I’m sure you know :-).

  7. Great post! If more people thought outside themselves this world would be better for it indeed. Your story reminded of the time I honked and at passing the slow moving car in front me realized it was my own grandfather. Oh, I never heard the end of it. Haha!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh my goodness! You honked at your own grandfather :-). Now what are the chances of that? I hope it provided a good laugh for years to come.

  8. srbottch says:

    Good reminder for all of us, Kay. My wife reminds me that an older person is just adjusting to a new safe driving style and we must accommodate that person. ‘Patience’ is a tough discipline, isn’t it? I’m reminded of a poster I saw. It was a buzzard sitting on a scraggly tree branch high above a desolate ground waiting for a meal, saying to itself, ‘patience, my butt, I wanna kill something’. Our society seems to be trending more this way.

    1. candidkay says:

      Funny, I feel as if at least half of my fellow drivers have the same sentiment as the buzzard :-). I am trying not to be one of them.

  9. Love this Kristine – it’s such a common occurrence, but you really made it human by focussing on the person behind the ‘inconvenience’ and thinking about he felt based on your father’s experience.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). If we all had to put a face to the slights we inflict, I’d like to think the world would be a kinder place.

  10. Jackie says:

    Love this as usual. I have a temper, especially when driving (what is it about driving that brings out the worst in people), and am often too quick to judge others before seeing them for who they are.

    Also, your point about why the elderly, including your dad, get out and drive to avoid isolation…it makes me so sad, but it’s true. We don’t do right by our elders. We forget to respect them, not simply because of their experience but because even while their bodies may be slowing down or even failing they are still human beings. We would all be better off if we remembered that everyone else is a human being.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s true. We really don’t do right by our elders today. But when you love one of those elders, it gives you an entirely different lens through which to view the picture.

  11. Roy McCarthy says:

    Totally agree and relate Kristine. Patience and empathy for each other is too often in short supply nowadays. And I too often have to remind myself that old people were young once and would have their own stories to tell, if we had time to listen.

    1. candidkay says:

      Then I am in good company, Roy!

  12. Michelle says:

    Patience, when we remember it, can be a pleasant surprise. I love how one pause brought up the memory of your Father, who would’ve been giving you the “attagirl,” from the spirit world.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am sure he is the one who made me hesitate:). And as my sister said, he is probably doing a happy dance because of it. I hope someone is as kind to me when I’m that age!

  13. Susan says:

    Ahhhhh patience. Some days I have more than others. It’s good to remember that we ALL ( no matter what age) have moments of poor driving/parking. We are, after all, human. Lovely ode to your dad.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). Here’s to greater acceptance of our humanity. . .

  14. Once when I was pulled over for speeding the policeman asked me “Now tell me – what was SO important?” It made me think. This rush rush rush. It is for non important stuff.

    1. candidkay says:

      It is so true! We become filled with our own importance and forget that we

      1. candidkay says:

        That we are one tiny cog in a very large universe.

  15. Amy says:

    I love that your dad kept going even though the going was slow, even though the stressed and the rude made his going less pleasant. I love that in spite of less than great health your dad “put himself out there in the world” – just like the fellow you had the kindness and courtesy not to honk at in the parking lot… Courteousness too often falls by the wayside in this rush-rush world. I love that in spite of your own pressing to-do list, you see not merely with your eyes but with your heart. Another beautiful post, this. xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I hope there are many more like my dad, ignoring the honks and making a life in the world anyway:). And more me’s out there thinking twice before we honk and taking a breath.

  16. suemclaren24 says:

    I sometimes have to remind myself that I have NO idea what’s going on with the other driver, and to “chill”. There is a saying I keep in my car, “You are Here, and this is the highlight of your day”. Honoring patience may indeed be the highlight of a day!

    1. candidkay says:

      A man at the donut shop downtown the other day who is working behind the counter said to me: today is your mountain. Don’t let anyone make it your molehill. I try very hard not to be the molehill maker:). Sounds like you do too! I hope it’s contagious.

  17. You’ve given me something to help me face days filled with far too many demands: A reason to stop and think, to watch and to listen, with respect, regard and compassion. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all cared a little more and obsessed a lot less?

    1. candidkay says:

      I love it when I’ve given you any pearls of wisdom :-). I do agree that we could all stand to slow down, obsess less and put it all in perspective.

  18. Patience is a virtue, don’t they say? 🙂 But I’m with you, the older I get myself, the more I think about how those few little seconds aren’t really going to make a difference to me getting anywhere faster. And what does it matter? That said, my mother is nearly 87 and we (her children) think she needs to give up driving. But the loss of independence is horrifying to her (she is not concerned about her own safety). It’s a real dilemma.

    1. candidkay says:

      I can relate to worrying about the loss of independence. I think that would just about kill me. We were lucky in that my mother voluntarily gave up driving long before she needed to do so. She felt she was not as competent on the road as she needed to be. But I have friends who have needed to take the car keys from their parents. And that is such a hard thing. Hoping you find a peaceful resolution!

  19. A great reminder that we all have a choice Kristine. I often take a deep breath before a honk or impatience in the car, as it hleps me step back and consider my actions. Thankyou.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m thinking of so many things it would be wise to take a deep breath before doing :-). If only we could all follow your advice more consistently.

      1. I have to remember my advice too Kristine! ha

  20. This is a very beautiful post. I used to honk too but like you, I’ve experienced elderly people coming out and I felt ashamed at my impatience…

    1. candidkay says:

      I think it says something about us that we had beast feel ashamed about it. I’ve seen people honk and then drive by an elderly person making obscene gestures or shouting awful things. The way we treat each other says so much about us, rather than the other person.

  21. George says:

    Too often I watch the impatience of younger people with the old in many different situations. It’s a reflection of our society. In other countries, older people are revered. In our country they are in the way of our much too busy lifestyles. I’m glad the Universe tapped you on the shoulder that day.

    1. candidkay says:

      Me too! There’s a lot to be said for slowing down and remembering we share the universe.

  22. Stina says:

    What an absolutely beautiful reminder!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). One we could all use on our most hectic days, I think.

  23. Melzy says:

    Great post -agree completely!
    We all have to remember that we too will be that age one day, and I’m sure we won’t appreciate being constantly honked.
    So next time we’re about to honk at an elderly, don’t do it, be it for our future self’s sake.

    1. candidkay says:

      You said it! What goes around comes around.

  24. I have emphysema Kay, and that has given me a very new look to the future.
    I shall enjoy my journeys, curb my impatience, and realise there ARE many others in that same boat of old age, ilnesses etc.
    I even make it a point to speak to all and sundry with a smile as I pass by them on my walks…old, young, wheelchair bound or even patting a lovely pooch, tail wagging unconditionally 🙂
    Great post Kay, a lesson for us all 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      While emphysema is not a teacher I would wish on you, I am glad you use it as a teacher rather than think of it as a curse. I am sure your positive energy rubs off on those you pass! And that is good for us all.

      1. Thank you Kay! And it has taught me much, it is a great gift because when listened to it shows much wisdom 🙂

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