Monday, March 26, 2012

Road rage

I have been driving in Honduras for over a year now.  When teams are in house, I like to put a new person in the front seat of the van to get the full experience of the crazy driving in Honduras!  I explain that the bad news is that there are no road rules in Honduras.  The good news is that everyone knows it!  Drivers expect to see anything at any time in any place!  So, you just launch out and bob and weave along with the rest of the traffic.  Honking horns are part of the language in Honduras and do not signify any specific emotion.  Sometimes the honk is a simple declaration that you are there.

Not so in the US.  We have a very well developed and communicated set of road rules.  We (mostly) abide by them and we certainly expect everyone else to.  One never honks except in case of impending doom. Those who honk at other times are often rewarded with an obscene gesture.  We also have something else here that, to date, I have not seen in Honduras.  Road rage.

On Saturday I was driving up to Charlotte to speak at St. John's Episcopal Church.  I had no deadline so wasn't terribly annoyed when traffic stopped on I85.  Clearly there had been an accident or something that had all lanes blocked.   I have a GPS in my car that will find detours so, mostly because it is fun to mess around with technology, I asked it to find me a detour.  Sure enough, it directed me to take the exit in .3 miles.  Enough cars were getting off that I was able to inch up and get off the highway.  But, because my life works this way, the detour took me to the very next entrance back onto I85!  I discerned this as I passed two cars backing down the ramp!  (Where am I, Honduras???)  I chuckled at my luck, declined to drive backwards and drove onward to join the crowd.  Now the ramp enters into the left lane and has a very short merge lane.  The cars to my left are bumper to bumper so I really have no choice except to inch forward and wait for a car to let me in.  Suddenly, a driver opened his window and stuck his head out to communicate with me.  He was driving a nice late model sedan with a wife and two little girls in the back.  I opened my window expecting to hear an invitation to enter the fray and some commiseration about the sad state of affairs.  Instead, just like in the cartoons, his eyes bugged out and I swear his hair stood on end as he SCREAMED at me!  "Who do you think you are?  I know you just got on but we have been here for an hour!  You think you are entitled?"  etc. etc.   Dumbfounded I tried to explain that I was running out of lane and had nowhere else to go.   Ironically, within a few yards after my entitlement merge, we passed the site of the accident and the road was open.

I believe this man is a good person, a calm and loving husband and father.  I imagine he attended church the next day and is considered to be a fine man by all who know him.  The question is, what turns a normal person into a cartoon character?   Every time I come back to the US I realize how much unstated pressure there is here.   Pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to buy the newest model of [fill in the blank], to achieve higher levels of status and success, to be at the "top of your game."  It is unrelenting even if you aren't into all of that.  Arguably, I am not since I have chosen the missionary life.  Even so, I am constantly aware of the pressure and my choice to eschew it.  The election season makes everything so much worse.  Candidates and pundits are creating a nerve wracking atmosFEAR of impending doom, the end of life as we know it.   Men and women who have dedicated their lives to public service are portrayed as public enemy #1.  There is so much hate, discontent and bald faced lies polluting the airwaves.  (To be clear - this is bipartisan pollution)  Turn off the TV and radio!

 My prayer for all of you as I get ready to return to Honduras comes from the Collect of the Day yesterday:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly
wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to
love what you command and desire what you promise; that,
among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

So, I exhort you all, choose a different way of life.  You don't need to become a missionary, though I highly recommend it.  But choose love. Choose peace.  Choose trust in God that as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.