Rush Hour

They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love – not by the way we conduct ourselves on icy roads during Rush Hour, during Rush Hour.

Karen couldn’t drive last week, due to a badly sprained right ankle, so I had to ferry her to and from work, during the year’s first blast of winter in Calgary. During that experience, I came face to face with the double-oxymoronic nature of the term “Rush Hour.”

Driving on icy, busy arteries at peak traffic times is the very antithesis of the concept I know as “rushing,” and it often takes much more than an hour.

Making a 130-ish-block excursion (round-trip) from our Coventry Hills home to the Calgary Herald – with a slight detour to drop off and then pick up the kids at Heritage Christian Academy – twice each weekday kept me on the roads for around 15 hours last week.

Fifteen tedious, time-wasting, stressful, white-knuckled hours.

And in that time, I observed many examples of both courtesy and callousness – from other drivers and from myself.

One of the most frustrating moments came at the end of Day 2, when we were trying to turn left at a traffic light on an icy uphill slope (from Centre Avenue onto Barlow Trail). The two cars in front of our minivan simply couldn’t get any traction, so they sat helpless, spinning their wheels. After futilely watching the light turn green a few times, but being unable to move, I finally put the truckster in Park, flipped on the Hazard lights and hopped out to give the car in front of me a push. Not because I’m a good guy, really, but because I was boxed in and there was no other way to get out of the situation. It worked, and he drove away. I tried to push the car in front of him out, too, but it wouldn’t budge. I felt bad for the driver, who eventually had to back up and pull a U-turn on an icy hill in heavy dusk traffic, but there simply wasn’t anything I could do to help her. Our Honda Odyssey’s larger tires, plus a nifty traction-control system, allowed us to gain forward motion with reasonable efficiency, and I said a silent prayer for her as we passed.

When we finally got moving, I checked the clock – it took us 15 minutes to navigate that simple left turn. In summer driving conditions and light traffic, the whole trip takes about 20 minutes!

I absolutely hate wasting time. I don’t mean “hate” like I hate sitcoms with laugh tracks. I mean “hate” like the hate I have for injustice and war and when people say “supposably” instead of “supposedly.”

Therefore, these lovely little commutes were a monumentally exasperating experience for me. But I wasn’t alone.

Many motorists simply refused to let legitimate, legal lane changers merge in front of them. I’m not perfect in this category either, but I think more than half of the time I shared the road generously.

That’s what Jesus says, right? It’s OK to play the Levite or the Priest sometimes, as long as you do the Good Samaritan thing more than half the time – isn’t that how the parable goes?

Other drivers, frustrated by the long lines of cars ahead of them, occasionally hopped onto the shoulder of a “freeway” and zoomed past everyone, then tried to buttinsky back into the lane in front of the very people they’d just illegally passed. I never let them in, myself – why reward such Me-First behaviour?

But should I have? What if they weren’t just being impatient? Maybe they had a great reason for rushing ahead of the rest of us – like a child waiting at a daycare centre that’s about to close, or an elderly parent in distress. Why didn’t I give them the benefit of the doubt?

Because I was crabby, and because I had no reason to believe they deserved to get where they were going any faster than me, that’s why. Moreover, being nice to them would cost my family something (perhaps a full minute of travel time!!) and gain us nothing. ‘Since I don’t know the other drivers, why should I bother?’ I said to myself.

Again, just like Jesus would have done if he wore my Sorels – right? Not exactly. The question of whether the other drivers ‘deserved’ to be let in wouldn’t even enter into the discussion, and thank God for that. I wouldn’t want God to give me what I deserve, after all.

But such thinking didn’t even enter my mind during the commute.

Hmm. If character is doing the right thing – even when nobody’s watching – what do my traffic actions say about my character? (It’s a good thing I don’t have one of those Jesus fishes on my bumper. I wasn’t much of an ambassador for Christ last week.)

As I wrote in my Why?!? posting from Nov. 11, there’s reason to believe that God allowed Karen’s injury to happen because He wants her to slow down. Unfortunately, her slowing down equals my speeding up (as a household administrator, not as a driver). I had to get up 30 minutes earlier to get everything ready, then sacrifice a significant chunk of my interviewing/writing/cleaning/Facebooking time to the stressful, maddening, hurry-up-and-wait world of commuting in a blizzard on other people’s behalf (behalves?).

To be honest, that was part of what was so maddening – that the commuting was for others, not for me. It’s not my fault that Karen hurt herself, yet I had to be a major part of the solution. As I mentioned in Why?!? I was mad at God, but not only for noble reasons. I was also angry because of what the situation meant for ME!

When push comes to shove, I can always manage to make something about me.

In hindsight, in addition to telling to Karen to slow down, I think God also used the Commuting Week From Hell to show me just how far I have to go when it comes to being patient and compassionate with strangers when I’m protected by the shield of anonymity – and with Him, when I’m thrown a circumstance I don’t like.

I’ll work on that – I promise. But just to warn you, it’ll be a long process for me. Good thing God is a lot more patient and compassionate with me than I am with others.

Peace be with you.


About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
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2 Responses to Rush Hour

  1. Jenny Hughes says:

    Great post Rob. You may have thought yourself impatient but how many Calgary drivers would have stopped the help push the car in front, even if they were blocked in? Most would just have started beeping their horns I suspect.

    So the old WWJD question would be fairly interesting to ponder when faced with rush hour commuting! Would Jesus let everyone go in front of him? or would he block the hard shoulder drivers like most people do? Hmm something to ponder!

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