Up until recently my commute, although not nearly as stressful as others in the San Francisco Bay Area, could sometimes be frustrating after a long, stressful day at work. I find myself impatient and irritable by the various impediments or slowdowns, whether they come in the form of inopportune pedestrians or slowly driving cars. Occasionally, however, vignettes of life penetrate my perturbation and remind me of the joy in living.
Once after an irritating day with too many tasks to complete in too little time and too little appreciation received when completed exceptionally, I found my irritation rising when forced to stop mid-street for an elderly pedestrian accompanying a small child on a tiny bicycle with training wheels. Although initially piqued by this time-stopping delay, as I watched their measured progress across the wide street, I suddenly found myself thinking fondly of years before when I learned to ride a bicycle. In that moment, a lengthy delay morphed into a moment of wonder as I shared the history-making experience of a youngster learning the delight of self-propelled wheeled motion. Transformed by serendipity.
The next day, I left work a little earlier than customary and after stopping by my favorite eating place—a place where, Nick, the young man who makes my coffee and toasts my bread, knows my name, and the fare is organic and fresh—I found myself in the thick of commute traffic that was nearly stock still. To avoid the overwhelming stress of brake and accelerate traffic, I opted for a circuitous route that took me twice as long as the normal course would have, but with far fewer vehicles to compete.
As I found myself at an extremely long red light waiting to turn left on a major street, the melody of a popular song booming from the car next door penetrated my simmering irritability at the tedious length of the light. Turning to look at the vehicle, I was surprised and utterly amused to find a 40-, or perhaps early 50-, something singing and grooving along with the music. I struggled to maintain my deadpan gaze and to not gawk at the free entertainment, but could scarcely keep from rubbernecking all the same. To my chagrin, my fellow commuter’s green light came first. Though I lost my entertaining spectacle, I gained freedom to enjoy my ill-concealed mirth.
For that brief moment, it was almost as though I were looking into a mirror. Considering how many times I have boosted the sound on the radio, allowing a favorite or apropos tune to drown out clamoring thoughts from the day that were loath to be otherwise silenced, I realized that though I might be alone in my car, I was not alone in the effort to leave drudgery behind by choosing to revel in a spontaneous celebration of the miracle of being alive.