I had an odd drive from Pine to Payson the day I wrote this. Odd because it was so easy compared to some drives. There I was, all alone as I left Pine. I owned the highway. Before I knew it I was driving the four-lane down by the Natural Bridge. The four-lane zipped by, I reached the narrow, twisting one-lane mess between the Natural Bridge and Payson, went around a bend, and....
Came up behind a yellow-painted ADOT truck carrying a large piece of heavy equipment. So much for owning the highway.
I didn’t let it bother me though. Okay, so I was facing another long slow drive into town. What the hey! I’d already driven some great miles, hadn’t I? I stayed back and watched the poor guy up ahead struggle with his load.
A few minutes later, having driven at 40 or so all the way down to the East Verde cut, we crossed the bridge and started up the hill to Payson. I watched the numbers on my speedometer drift slowly downward.
To my surprise, part way up the hill the truck’s right hand signal went on. He pulled over on a stretch of paved shoulder and slowed down. I passed, waved to him, and kept on waving as he pulled back on the road. I hoped he could see my friendly thank you wave, but I couldn’t tell for sure because his heavily laden truck labored uphill so slowly he was out of sight in seconds.
But not out of mind.
Now that isn’t the most earth-shaking thing that ever happened to me on the road, but you know what happened? A nice warm glow passed over me. That driver had done something very considerate. He didn’t have to pull over. The law certainly does not require it when there’s only one vehicle behind you. He had gone out of his way to be nice, and I genuinely appreciated it.
It was such a little thing and yet it colored my whole day. I felt good as I drove into Payson. The sun was a little brighter. The air smelled a little fresher. Everything looked better. I went through my shopping with a smile on my face and in no time at all I was on my way back home.
Back in 1956 I arrived in Texas for a tour of duty at Sheppard Air Force Base. I didn’t have a car at first. I couldn’t afford one with only two stripes on my sleeve. But after a promotion I bought a 1950 Plymouth for a whole 200 – borrowed – bucks.
Maybe it was because I’d been without a car for over two years. Maybe I was more perceptive because I was driving in a new state. Maybe it was something else. I don’t know, but I noticed something when I started driving there, something that got me thinking. A few cars sported bumper stickers that said COURTESY IS CONTAGIOUS, it seemed that wherever I saw one those bumper stickers people were driving better – friendlier so to speak. So I did the same.
Now I know that I might have been imagining that, but there was nothing imaginary about what the ADOT truck driver did today. He went to a lot of trouble to let me get around him. And there was nothing imaginary about the way I passed on that good feeling to other people as I was shopping – and on the drive home too.
Remember those scorching July days when you were a kid? The whole sweating gang squeezed into little patches of shade? Staying out of the blazing summer sun? Barely able to breathe? Remember how some danged fool would jump up, tag someone, and yell, “You’re it!”
And what? The whole place would go nuts. Kids running around like madmen trying not to be tagged. Sweat pouring down faces. The whole gang turned into puffing, panting fools. And if someone got tagged he went even crazier until he managed to tag someone else.
Can I ask you a question? What if the first kid who got slapped on the back looked up at said, “Forget it, Jack! I’m not playing your game!”
And what will happen if some jerk cuts you off tomorrow and you just ignore it? Is that possible? Maybe, but...?
Somebody once told me that when a butterfly flutters its wings down in South America we can end up with a tornado in Kansas.
So what? So I’m going to give it a try, Johnny. I used to be the calmest driver on the planet. Nothing bothered me. Who knows? Maybe I can recapture that feeling. It would sure feel good.
PS: Wrote this seven weeks ago. It works!
For me, anyway.