Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Last September, on my way to work, I got a speeding ticket. I deserved it. I was going thirty miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone. It was not my first speeding ticket. I have a lead foot, but it had been quite some time since I’d been issued a ticket. The officer was polite and I admitted my wrong doing. Hoping for a warning, instead I got a ticket.  As soon as possible, I paid my fine from my checking account and not my husband’s and my joint account. I thought my wrong doing was behind me until our car insurance bill arrived in the mail. My husband noticed an increase in our rates and I shared with him about my speeding incident. Seeking a way to lower the insurance rates,  I signed up for a driver’s defensive course. Our insurance agent assured me it would help.

Putting Pride in my Back Pocket

Thankfully the six hour course was not a huge inconvenience. It was affordable and online. Though it totaled six hours in front of the screen, I could sit for a bit, turn it off and then resume it later. And I actually learned some things, mostly about myself as a driver.

Speeders are not patient people. I know this. But the curriculum did not shame those of us born with a lead foot, or show gory pictures of accidents involving drivers who incessantly speed. Instead, the section on “unsafe driving”  tapped into the core of human emotions. It is suggested that instead of thinking of other drivers as, (fill in this part of the sentence with your favorite expletive), drivers should give each other the benefit of the doubt. Though a very kind friend of mine uses this particular expression often, I’d never thought to apply it to other drivers. 

But with my record of speeding, the expense of a ticket and the hike in our insurance rates, I sat up, paid attention and took notes.

First of all, the narrator stressed to not take the actions of the other driver so personally. I don’t know why anyone would pull out in front of me and then drive under the speed limit and that is the point. I don’t know their story. Maybe they didn’t see me. Perhaps they didn’t mean to. It could be that the car they had to  borrow to get to work that day doesn’t have the same get up and go power they are used to. Whatever the case may be, I don’t have to react as though they are a malicious and evil individual. I don’t have to tailgate, honk my horn or pass on a dangerous curve. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Secondly, though I like to be out in front and not at the end of a long line of cars, I am not all that important. I’m just like everyone else. We all have places to go, people to see and things to do. We are all drivers, on the same road, wanting to reach our destination on time and alive. 

Finally, giving others the benefit of the doubt allows me to be a relaxed driver. Instead of being on high alert to how I can get ahead of others and be first in line, I can be at ease. I might even enjoy the scenery, listen to good music or carry on a conversation with my passenger. A relaxed driver is actually a better driver because they are less aggressive and take fewer risks. 

After passing my driver’s defensive course with flying colors I told my husband that my goal was to never get another speeding ticket. A lofty goal, but a worthy one. 

Why bother giving others the benefit of the doubt? It might be worth it to give others the benefit of the doubt because it makes us more civil whether we are behind the wheel or not.

Why Bother Slowing Down?

Why Bother Slowing Down?

     “Slow down, you move too fast,” are some words from The 59th Street Bridge (Feeling Groovy), a song written by Paul Simon. I’ve mostly liked the music of Simon and Garfunkel, and used to listen and sing along to their melodies. But, I never took the words to their songs seriously, especially this one. 

     Slow is not my natural speed. I’ve never been one to hang back or lally gag. When I move, it is purposeful. I’m on a mission to get from point A to point B with efficiency. Is it my personality, my disposition, or my demeanor? Is it nurture or nature? I only know that “it is.”

     My mother and her mother were both swift movers. They never did anything in slow motion. My grandmother always sat on the edge of her chair, back upright, ankles slightly crossed, ready to move from sitting to standing in one second.  

     In the same fashion, my mother sat long enough for Dad to say the blessing over the food, but popped up right after the amen was said. She’d scurry away to fetch the salt and pepper shakers, turn off the oven or grab a rag to wipe up the milk someone always spilled during a meal. Did their ways leave an indelible imprint on my life? Perhaps so.

     My mother taught me how to drive, though I never thought of myself to be as bad a driver as she was. She’d honk her horn at other drivers and call them names. 

     Though I hate getting behind a slow driver, one that will not exceed the speed limit by any degree, I’ve never honked at them or called them names, out loud.

     By the same token, I don’t like to stop. Once I’m driving down the road, red lights and stop signs are an interruption to the groove of moving. Yes, I am the one who speeds up when a traffic light turns yellow. I don’t mean to be this way, it is just who I am.

     I am early to work everyday, never late. Yet, no matter which route I take to get out of town and onto the highway, I’ve never found a route that takes less than five minutes. One of my sisters and I had this discussion a few days ago.

 “Have you tried the Pine Street route?” she asked while driving to our destination.

“Yes, I’ve tried that route.”

“What about going down Ontario Street?” 

“That is too far west I think.”

     I thought it interesting that she, like me, had tried to find the quickest route out of our little town. I am not alone in my need for speed.

     I was once called Speedy Gonzales when I worked in a nursing home. One of the patients dubbed me with this name, and I accepted it with a smile. It was his way of getting me to push him down to the dining room in his wheelchair. He knew he’d get there faster with me pushing him than with anyone else.  

     However, I am at odds with myself and here is why. Some years back, I started a personal yoga practice and now I’m a certified yoga instructor. As a practitioner, I know it is necessary to integrate into my life what I’ve been taught and one of the things I’ve been taught is to slow down, specifically, with the breath.

     Belly breathing, breaths that are full, and long, are better for us than shallow chest breaths. When our breathing slows down, our mind slows down giving us pause, time to respond rather than to react. 

     Of course, this slowing down of the breath is not easy for me to practice. I still hate to get behind anyone who lally gags whether it is in the grocery store, on a hiking trail or highway. But, when the impatience arises inside of me, I am learning to breathe in long slow breaths and exhale just as slowly. Then I see new possibilities before me; there is a wide spot just up ahead where I can pass.

     Why bother slowing down. I know it is worth it, but I’m still trying to discover the value for myself. I’ll keep you posted, and let you know when I do.