Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Last month, I was driving towards the Long Island Expressway (LIE) in the morning, when some car in front cuts me off and then pulls away.
This placed my car in an awkward position - somewhat blocking two lanes on a crowded street.
Because of this random predicament, several cars honk at me rudely as they whiz by, including this big tractor-truck with a super loud horn blast that made my heart skip a beat.
Fast forward (1 minute later) when I managed to drive by this same truck on its left. And at that moment, some thoughts of ill will crept into my head.
I thought to myself “(beep) you”. And before I knew it, I swerved right in front of this truck in anger, abruptly cutting it off.
And immediately another super loud horn shot blasted at me from behind.
The traffic light in front of me turned red. And I stopped my car. That truck pulled to an abrupt stop behind me as well.
And from my driver side window, I saw a big, bulky, angry truck driver get out of that truck, and slowly storm towards me. And I thought to myself, “oh boy”.
He came straight up to my window. And his eyes were wide and glazed with anger. He was unaware of the saliva dripping down his mouth. And before I knew it, he demonstratively started hurling insult after creative insult at my face for around 10 seconds.
It was a very long 10 seconds.
And during that time, all I could do was just sheepishly and profusely apologize to him from inside my car - feeling guilty, embarrassed, and conflicted.
Finally (since that traffic light was not going to stay red forever) he stormed back into his truck, hitting the back side of my car window with his fist in disgust along the way.
And when that traffic light turned green, I drove ahead and swerved left to get onto the LIE.
He drove past me on my right and hurled one final insult out of his truck window. He said “watch yourself mother (beep)er”. And then he drove away. Man.
And as I was driving back home on the LIE, feelings of ill-will and self-destructive stories crept back into my head.
“He’s going to think all Asians are easy to bully. What if I actually got out of that car and punched him in the face? Maybe knock him out in one punch! I should’ve at least hurled a couple of insults back at him to even things out!”
And once I finally arrived home, I got a chance to breathe and settle down.
I thought to myself, slow down there Rocky, if I did that, things would have gotten significantly worse. And quite frankly, I’m thankful that he only hurled insults at me, and not his fists.
It's also a good chance to practice these principles of awareness and acceptance that I’ve
been learning in meditation class. Observing that feeling of annoyance that bubbles up when an unfortunate incident like this happens. You can’t control that feeling.
But, what you can control is your response to that feeling. And observation puts a little bit of separation between yourself and that feeling. So then, you realize that the feeling does not define who you really are.
I also felt a little bad for the truck driver. He was in the middle of his work shift. Driving a huge truck. In New York City. That in itself can already induce significant stress.
Maybe he needed to get somewhere fast. Maybe he had a rough morning.
While he was hurling his insults, I saw a tinge of sadness in his angry eyes, as if he didn’t want to do this to me - but he had to.
He's a human being. He's definitely a son. Maybe he's a parent. Maybe he's a husband. He has many roles in life that he needs to play. And that’s not easy to do.
So, in that instance, I felt a little a bit of compassion for him. And, I think that helped me respond to his actions in the most appropriate manner given the context.
So, this random experience has at least provided me with some nuggets of wisdom. And in general, my life has been going well enough, so I do need some curveballs here and there - to help humble me and keep me on my toes.
Don’t worry. Sooner or later, whether we’re ready or not, life will throw them our way.
And when that next curveball comes, I will accept it. I will learn from it. And who knows, maybe I will create another post out of it!