• Pam Prior

Thoughts from a Traffic Jam

Updated: Sep 1, 2021



This week’s thoughts were drafted in a traffic jam.  Yup, it was dictated into my voice recorder during 18 miles of stop-and-go traffic westbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as I was working my way to a meeting.


Now, to put some context to this, I’m the person who:

  1. figures out how long the maps say it takes to get someplace; then

  2. adds an extra 50% window for traffic jams, accidents, and construction; then

  3. adds an extra 25% window to that for the unexpected (forgot to fill up on gas or a bum map – this of course, even though I’ve mapped it on Google, Yahoo, my car’s GPS and with my phone in hand just in case I need VZ Navigator); then, finally,/

  4. adds an extra 10-15 minutes to THAT in order to account for finding the right parking lot, office, reception area, etc.

So, as you can imagine, I’m not usually late!  In fact, I’m usually quite early for almost everything, and use the time to catch up on reading, phone calls, etc.  (I’ve decided not to consider these early arrivals as “wasting time”, but rather as “relocating productive time from the origin to the destination”).


But this past Thursday … I WAS LATE!  Despite my conservative and precise clock math, I just didn’t allot 1 ½ hours to drive 18 miles of highway.  So, I started getting anxious, frustrated, agitated, and even a little bit road-ragey.


But then … I took a deep breath.  (Because I know that oxygen helps in these situations.)


And that breath was enough to remind me that this has happened to everyone at least once.  This will happen again.  So, I took another breath, called the person I was meeting with, apologized, and let her know my updated arrival time.  Guess what?  The world didn’t end.  My physiology had sure been responding as it would, but it just didn’t.  Hmmm – that’s an important one to remember.  The concern about the outcome in these situations is usually a lot worse than the actual outcome.


And as I started dictating into my voice recorder, another thought hit me that calmed me down even more:


“There must be a reason that I’m not supposed to get there on time.  Traffic jams do that to us sometimes.  Heck – life does that to us sometimes – the unexpected (and even frustrating) happens, and we get thrown off track.  There’s a reason.  Whether it is related to me, related to the person I’m meeting with, or related to some random third party, there is still a reason I’m sitting here in traffic.  Even if I may never know what it is.”


I’m not going to go too crazy here, but some examples of “reasons” might include:

  1. I may meet someone at the gas station (that I now need to go to because my car has idled for so long) who will play a key role in my life

  2. I may have just avoided causing an accident I would have otherwise caused if I’d been at the other end of the turnpike half an hour earlier

  3. The person I’m meeting with may now have time to finish a time-sensitive report that she had to delay working on last night because of a family issue

You get the idea.  


So my suggestion is to do the following when you find yourself in this (or a similar) situation:

  1. Take a deep breath

  2. Get past the anticipation of how awful this is going to be and take some action – what CAN you do from your place of limited control?  And if there is nothing at all you can do …

  3. Remember – there is some reason for this

  4. Repeat steps 1, 3 and 4

So today, I have a 10:00 am meeting at the other end of the turnpike, and I’m going to be late.  End of story.  Somehow, unraveling this perspective on it (the world won’t end and there is a reason) helped.  I didn’t quite get to the point where I was grateful for the incident, but at least I calmed down (still in the slowest lane, but calmer).


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