Rationalising A Way

I live in the London Borough of Lambeth. For some time all the roads in the borough have been the subject of a 20 mile per hour limit with very few exceptions. The neighbouring boroughs have a variety of rules, including some streets with a 20 limit, but none, as far as I can judge apply it universally.

It takes some getting used to. On narrow roads with parked cars on either side it feels fast enough but, especially at night on empty straight highways it feels almost like a penitence and it is easy to let your mph creep towards the former standard of 30.

Many don’t like it; some positively hate it. And this leads to far more confrontations than was customary before its introduction. Cars rush up behind, pressing close as if, by the simple expedient of air pressure being applied I will go faster. Lights are flashed, horns of differing levels of frustrations pressed and, occasionally madcap overtaking manoeuvres undertaken.

Sometimes I shrug, at others I growl, often a sense of my own superiority arises. What I struggle with is at these times is any sort of empathy and yet I too have felt that urge to go faster. It takes a degree of will power to avoid signing my thinking, offering a smug, knowing finger in response to their bubbling annoyance.

It’s all just so emotional. In the cold light of rational thinking, I grasp the essential truth that there are varied reasons why people react as they do. And me like likewise. I can empathise easily enough when taken out of the moment. When a calmer head can prevail.

You might think age would add a layer of objectively to some of these moments when I experience any number of these petty daily frictions. Maybe it does but remaining zen isn’t always so easy.

It’s all about stepping outside of the moment, lending distance to an otherwise emotional response; knowing that those others, who, hidden in the anonymity of their cars and other vehicles are really like me, no different.

How can we reach a position where we are less antagonistic, I wonder? More pacific. Give peace a chance, eh? It’s all about finding something – your something – that breaks you out of the middle of the frustration and enables you to see yourself as if from above, to see you and whoever else as if in a movie.

Down the years I’ve tried various expedients: deep breathing; imagining your antagonist in some absurd situation; listening rather than speaking.

Currently my mantra is stolen from a film. To be accurate it’s stolen from an interview on a film review show between Tom Hanks and Simon Mayo. In it, Mayo reports on a fellow reviewer’s mantra: ‘it’ll be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end’ and asked Hanks for his. In answering it he cites the character he is playing in his latest movie, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’ about an American icon pretty much unknown to British audiences: Mr (Fred) Rogers. His mantra was ‘Be Kind’.

And yes, that suits me. In those moments when a spark risks escaping and starting some sort of interpersonal conflagration, I say to myself ‘Be Kind’: kind to the person causing the friction; kind to myself; and kind to those who I will interact with later may benefit from me avoiding confrontation. And be kind unconditionally; it’s not about wanting or expecting the other person to reciprocate; you have to take that first step regardless of the reaction or consequences

I recommend you finding something, a little mind-worm that acts as an emotional bomb disposal. That’s mine for the foreseeable. If we all use something we might begin to ease away some frictions. Wouldn’t that be good? What do you do?

PS Hanks own little saw was ‘This too shall pass’.

This is written the fifth anniversary of #1000speak 1000 voices for compassion

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to Rationalising A Way

  1. Good post Geoff. Hubby put a sticker on the back of his car ‘The closer you get, the slower I go’ which made people back off.
    We have patches of 20 mph limits around schools, but our main streets here are 30mph. However, we have a pair of idiots who do a lot more than that in our road just because they have big exhausts and a loud stereo system competing against each other!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Bravo, His Geoffleship. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bryntin says:

    For me, it just takes a couple of breaths, proper breaths under which you can hide the thought ‘**** ******** ****’ but not say it. It’s probably just as well I can’t pronounce that. Then be calm. If the other person is still annoyed, be calmer, that gets them really annoyed even more and hopefully they’ll keel over clutching their chest in front of you. Easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I suppose the adage “stupid is forever” (alternately, ‘even duct tape can’t fix stupid’) isn’t quite the mantra of compassion and empathy you’re going for?
    Here’s a link to an earlier film on Mr. Rogers. http://www.misterrogersandme.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I very much admire your approach, and the idea of a mantra/anchor point to go back to … it must be really difficult to be “zen” in a huge city like London. I’ve only visited a few times and it seems overwhelmingly loud, busy and anonymous! Your garden must be such an oasis of calm for you 🌿

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    I don’t really know, I try and smile and not raise my voice. I did enjoy this post Geoff. If I had to have a mantra it would be calm, calm ,calm ,💜

    Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    I hate those people. Yesterday I was sticking to the 50 speed limit on a bypass and various people roared past, pathetically jamming on their brakes for a moment when they got to the speed camera. I caught up with them all at a main roundabout 4-5 miles later.
    I know this will happen so I try and feel superior in some way! It does help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Ah ha, the Smug defence, cunning!


      • trifflepudling says:

        Well sort of. I just like the feeling of calm I get if I can make myself stick to the limit and not get worked up about idiots who can’t stand being behind a woman driver and who feel the law doesn’t apply to them because they’re so big and important. They probably think people who stick to the speed limit are feeble-minded whereas I think exactly the opposite – they’re the feeble-minded ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I’m with you. I do rather glory in my dodery old man 20 mph shtick

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Yvonne says:

    Be kind. I like it. That’s all we need. (And being kind to yourself matters so much!)

    Thanks for joining in the link up. Hope you’ve enjoyed the other posts, many fewer than we once had, but still some good food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I think people raging at other drivers allows them to vent their frustrations with little consequences. Here everyone is pretty on edge with the “leader” of our nation constantly seeking attention with inanity. His nastiness has been having an effect on a lot of people. Don’t know if Brexit has similarly knocked folks off their equilibrium. I try to just turn my radio up and continue to drive defensively.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. JT Twissel says:

    I always try to keep in mind it only takes a second to change a life when on the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Patience is a virtue… must do better….x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday February 26th 2020 – #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Legends Andrew Joyce, #Patience Geoff Le Pard | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  13. CarolCooks2 says:

    Sabai Sabai is the mantra here and there really is no point in not doing so…They may hold the title for the worst drivers ever…but Sabai Sabai…most people are so laid back they are horizontal…Have a lovely day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I find myself in these kinds of situations (be it road rage or on the phone to a customer service agent who doesn’t care) I always think to myself ‘treat others how you would like them to treat you.’ It’s something my grandmother (who would have been 105 today) taught me. And you know what? It always works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “Be Kind” is a mantra I can get behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I feel if another driver wants that desperately to get past me, I want him past me too, and well away to endanger other people and not me.

    Liked by 1 person

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