Earlier this week Paul was in NYC for a speech he was giving. Afterwards, he jumped in an Uber and headed back to his hotel. They sat through a traffic light several times. When they finally got through it, Paul noticed that even though the red lights were functioning perfectly well, traffic cops were also there directing cars.
Confused, Paul asked the driver why the police were there in addition to having working traffic lights. The driver said when the signals turned red, people refused to stop and continued on. Then they would get stuck in the middle of the intersection and cars coming from the other side wouldn’t be able to move. Without the police presence it was chaos.
While they were sitting at the red light, the car Paul was in was second in line for the light. Beside him sat another car that was second in line in his particular lane. The driver of the adjacent car started blowing the horn at the car in front of him even though the light was still red. Paul’s driver started explaining when Paul couldn’t understand what was happening. The man looked over at the other car and said, “He’s just telling the guy in front that when the light turns green, he’d better be f@#king ready to go.”
Prior to hearing Paul’s story, a friend of mine and I had been discussing how people in Charlotte were running red lights more frequently. I’m sure it’s always happened but it seems to be escalating recently. People also seem to be driving faster lately. And I’m talking about more than just a couple of miles over the speed limit.
Where is the fire? Why is everyone driving so fast? Where are they all going that they needed to be there yesterday? In 2020, almost 1000 people died because someone ran a red light, and an additional 116,000 people were injured in a collision because of a red light violation. While the numbers are sobering and staggering frankly, I think I’m more interested in why we're doing it.
My mother-in-law used to talk about a phenomenon that she called “runners“. People who never stop to enjoy the place or situation where they are. They are always mentally or physically running to the next thing. “We just had a great meal. What’s next?“ And that might be why, during the holidays, meals at her house would last 2 to 3 hours with everyone sitting around the table talking and laughing. People could come and go but when we were around that table, we were THERE!
When Madison was growing up and we had to go somewhere, she was always the kind of kid who would say “I don’t wanna go,” and then when she would get there, “I don’t want to leave.” It was so frustrating. But today I realized, she gets it from me.
It doesn’t matter how late in the season it happens, when the days begin to get a little cooler and the sun sets a little earlier, I don’t want summer to end. And then when the leaves begin to turn and summer is completely over, I want it to be autumn forever. Of course, I feel the same way with winter and then later with spring.
Zen, Buddhism, Taoism, and many other philosophies all talk about being in the moment, being aware. It’s a really hard thing to do most of the time. There are so many things on our to-do lists, so many activities we’ve signed up for; we don’t like to slow down. We tend to run from one thing to the next.
I have worked long and hard to be in the moment, but when it comes down to it , I tend to have another problem. I start to hold on too tightly. I don’t want it to end. And there’s the rub: how can we be fully present, soaking it all in, living fully and not put a stranglehold on it?