The Wrong Way
“We’re going the wrong way! He led us down the wrong way!”
My heart wanted to burst from my chest when I realized what was happening. We were going the wrong way down a divided highway!
It was the middle of the night in Boston and my band had just finished a set at the Midway Cafe. After loading the equipment into one van, the band loaded into the other van—and since I was one of the only sober ones, I was asked to drive the band home. The other driver simply said, “Follow me.”
There’s nothing wrong with being a follower; after all, if everyone is leading the way then we risk walking alone in every direction. But there is a danger in being a follower when the person you’re following doesn’t actually know where they’re going.
As we made our way out of the city, I carefully followed the van in front, but paid too close attention to the van and not enough attention to where we were going, which is why when we drove onto a ramp I didn’t realize it was an exit ramp and not an entrance ramp.
The first clue that something was wrong was when I wondered out loud, “Why is the other side of the highway on the right side?”
Then I added, “Isn’t the yellow line supposed to be on the left side?”
That’s when it hit me, and panic suddenly welled below the surface of the skin, like rocking a little too far back in a rocking chair.
I began flashing the lights to get the other driver’s attention but he just kept going. The road started to curve, making it impossible to see if any vehicles were coming around the bend.
In my mind I saw a car coming at us full speed and imagined the shock and fear that would rush over them seeing headlights heading straight towards them.
“Which way will they turn?” I wondered. “If I turn left to avoid hitting them, what if they turn right at the same time and we crash into each other anyway?”
It was like asking the proverbial chicken or the egg question, but with the twist of a game of chicken.
While there was no one yet coming towards us, with every second the possibility of this scared speculation becoming a reality increased.
All at once I made a decision and acted on it, as fast as the synapses could fire. The van in front carried the equipment; the van I was driving carried the band members themselves—and I wasn’t going to risk losing those five souls because of a silly mistake.
I performed the fastest 3-point turn in the history of driving (at least, that’s what it felt like). In the haste of the moment I neglected to account for the added length of the van, and during the extreme maneuver the back of the van slammed into the concrete median. But it was only a touch and go hit, because before we even finished backing up I put the van back into drive and slammed the gas pedal.
A sigh of relief fell over all of us.
Even though I didn’t know the way home, at least we were finally headed in the right direction.
I think of that night often, thankful that all of us, including the other driver—who simply got off at the next exit—all made it home safely that night.
Though it can be easy to be angry at the other driver for leading us astray, I am careful to instead point a patient finger at myself. The decision to follow comes with the responsibility to also remain aware of where you’re going, and to break away from the pack when something doesn’t feel right.
No one can take you out of character and lead you astray without your consent, whether by design or by default. Today, whenever I feel the urge to pass blame or judgement onto another, I remember that night in Boston, and instead point a patient finger at myself.
Such patience can empower you with self-control, humility, and kindness, so that even if you don’t quite know the way, you are at least headed in the right direction.
What are you doing to bring more patience into your everyday life?
I'm a mirror (and so are you).