Carol Fleming

I was inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a 5-lane city street, 2 lanes in each direction plus a center turn lane. It was almost, but not quite, complete gridlock. The traffic light was a couple blocks before me, and traffic stretched out blocks behind me. I saw a guy trying to ease into the traffic lane from a parking lot, and decided to stop to create space for him to merge. A lady in the lane next to me saw what I was doing and she stopped as well, leaving room for him to not only merge, but cross both lanes of traffic to get into the center turn lane if that’s what he wanted.

But he didn’t look up. He was staring down at something, maybe a phone, and he would occasionally glance up to look to see if the traffic light was green, but he never looked right in front of him to see the space that had been created for him. We waited and waited, but he never looked at where he wanted to go. Eventually, as traffic picked up a bit, I looked over at the lady in the lane next to me, we both smiled and shrugged our shoulders, and started driving.  His space was gone.
I couldn’t get this guy out of my mind. I kept thinking that even though what he wanted was right in front of him, he didn’t expect it to happen. He didn’t look for it and he missed it, entirely.
I wondered if that’s happened to me, if there was a time when I really didn’t believe that I’d get what I wanted so I didn’t notice when it showed up.
I told this to several friends, and everyone had similar traffic stories of their own. One friend said that after allowing space for someone who didn’t look up, traffic started moving and she moved with it. Her guy finally looked up and starting honking his horn and making rude gestures at her. She asked m, “Was it my responsibility to honk my horn at him to alert him to that space? Wasn’t his responsibility to pay attention?”
This felt like one of those profound but practical life lessons we sometimes get. If I want something to happen, believe that it will come, keep watch out for it. Look for it. Look in all directions. If I think it will come from one certain place, look all around anyway. Don’t wait for others to show me what’s showed up. Look for myself.
A couple weeks after all this happened, once again I found myself in slow-moving traffic and a guy ahead was trying to merge into the lane from a parking lot. I decided when I got up to him, I’d stop to create a space. When I got to him, though, he had become discouraged and was backing up, presumably to find another way out of the parking lot.

I added to my earlier practical life lessons, another lesson: Don’t give up too soon.

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