A Road Rage Lesson from my Dad

Faster is not always better.

Yesterday I buried my Dad: 87 years-old, of Scottish descent, first generation American, decorated war hero, husband of two deceased wives, sibling to two brothers he outlived, father of 4, grandfather of 16, great-grandfather of 7, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, hospital administrator, sail-boater, dog lover, cigar smoker and certified duffer.

The gathering to mourn Dad’s passing provided a rare opportunity to reconnect with friends and family. To reflect on a life well-lived, to measure one’s own failings and accomplishments, to think about years remaining, and to remember what’s important.

It may be no coincidence that three days prior to Dad’s burial a related point was delivered to me in a mini road rage incident on the back roads of New Jersey. Coming home with friends late that night on an unfamiliar, winding country road, deer lurking at every turn, I hovered a bit below the posted speed limit to avoid putting antlers through the windshield.

My concentration on the road ahead was broken by a fast approaching set of headlights from behind that for several hundred yards remained no more than 5 feet off my rear bumper. I tapped my brakes and the car backed off momentarily, only to return to a position even closer to my trunk. In no mood to play chicken, I signaled right, pulled off to the side of the road, and waited for the driver to speed past me.

Instead, when I looked out my side window, the young driver pulled up next to me and rolled down his passenger-side window. I rolled down my window to hear what he was yelling. “Why were you brake-checking me?! Why were you brake-checking me?!” he screamed.

Although I was unfamiliar with the term “brake checking,” I yelled back, “Well, moron, maybe it’s because you were riding 3 feet off my bumper.”

I waited for his response, expecting a tirade of Jersey Shore profanity. Instead, the driver stammered for a moment, and then yelled, “Well….GO FASTER!!!!” With that, he laid down a 6-foot patch of rubber and sped off down the road.  My passengers and I spent most of that ride home laughing off the incident.

Nothing happens by accident, and there’s a lesson to be learned in every encounter, positive or negative. Coming on the heels of my Dad’s passing, I feel there’s some special meaning for me in the driver’s peculiar “GO FASTER” directive.

My Dad was telling me to SLOW DOWN. To spend more time with the people I love. To pay closer attention to their lives. To listen more carefully to what they’re saying. To be more selective in how I spend my time. And to savor every day and every year that remains.

So thanks for the farewell gift, Dad.

I got the message.

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