Thursday, March 15, 2018

Just Nervous

Sitting in the back seat of my Uber on the way to JFK airport this afternoon…

We are stopped at a red light when a car behind us honks. A car beside us honks twice in response. Another car honks, then another and another. We are surrounded by a frenzy of honking cars but the reason for the honking is not clear to me, nor to my driver, as evidenced by the fact that we are both swiveling our heads around from side to side and front to back, trying to find the cause of the honking. 

We find none. 

I’m instantly annoyed.  

Honking for no reason? Seriously? I imagine sticking my head out the window and yelling at everyone above all the honking to “STOP HONKING!!!!!!!!” 

Instead, I keep all of my body inside the car and make eye contact with my driver through her rear-view mirror, giving her a very exaggerated and knowing, “Geeze, what is wrong with these people, am I right?” kind of look… 

She smiles back at my agitated face, shrugs her right shoulder slightly and says to me calmly, “Most of them are just nervous.”

"Oh..." I reply, surprised and a little humbled that she didn't just jump on my outrage bandwagon. I quickly add, “Yeah, good point...That’s a very wise way of thinking about it.”

The light turns green. My driver proceeds with the route, while I proceed to process the wisdom she just dropped on me – wisdom that was way less about how to navigate the literal “honkers” on the streets of New York City, and much more about how to navigate the metaphorical “honkers” on every single road of life. 

“Most of them are just nervous.”  

For reasons that may not be clear to me, nor do they need to be, the honkers are nervous.
And uncomfortable - because nervous is usually pretty uncomfortable.

So the nervous get noisy, and start honking.  Because for a moment honking makes us feel tough. And feeling tough, even for a moment, can sometimes feel better than admitting we feel nervous.

But what I was reminded of in the back seat of my Uber on my way to JFK, is that the next time I'm surrounded by honking, I have to remember that the honking is about the honkers, it has nothing to do with me. The nervous honkers do not need a honk from me in response to their honking. They sure as heck don’t need TWO.  That won’t solve any problems. It definitely won’t stop the honking.

And the next time it is me who is the one getting noisy and doing the honking, because I am the one who is nervous, and my nervousness has temporarily confused me and caused me to think I need to be tough, I can only hope that instead of receiving honking in response, I’ll be lucky enough to be in the presence of someone who understands honking, like my Uber driver today, who can calmly smile at me over all the noise I'm making and say, “I hear you sweetie. I hear you getting loud. I know it's because something has you nervous and it's okay. We all get nervous sometimes. It’s okay.”