I have sat in some serious traffic jams in my time. I’m talking about those thankfully rare situations where all plans are scuppered, people are walking up and down the motorway and if it’s a hot day, some are even laying out their picnic, determined to make the most of the seemingly infinite delay. Then you have those traffic jams caused not so much by an accident but a sheer outbreak of extreme weather such as an unusually heavy downpour of snow. A former colleague of mine left the office on such an occasion at around 4.00 PM, hoping to get ahead of the game as soon as he realised how much snow was on the ground. He took some back roads, helped one or two people get their cars back on the road and by the time he got home it was 7.00 AM the following morning!
Perhaps the most frustrating of all traffic jams are those – much more common in my experience – where there is a sizeable delay but no matter where you look as you pass through the so-called roadworks, you can’t spot any work actually being done. What are they about? Practise traffic jams for when the real work starts, which sometimes feels like never!
For the past couple of days in a row, I have sat at the beginning of what looked like a major delay but thankfully, I took the time to observe how long it actually took to get through the mile or two of traffic and guess what? Fifteen minutes from start to home, so a delay of just ten minutes. There is a sign on the side of the road at the beginning of where the traffic slows right down and it says something like this: Merge In Turn. I’m sure they put these signs out all the time but to be honest, I’ve never noticed this one before, and like I said, I’ve been in my fair share of traffic jams.
Now I’m not saying that the traffic moved so much faster than expected simply because of a sign that perhaps most drivers are actually trying to adhere to but it did look like it was working and it got me thinking at least. Most of us will have experienced at some time in our lives, a delay of one sort or another. We all dislike delays of course, usually with some degree of intensity. They temporarily stop us from obtaining what we want. They force us to do something differently or stop us from doing anything at all sometimes. But what it the delay is dare I say it, a “divine device” – designed to help us think about what we are trying to do, or help us see a better way forward? What if somehow, the encouragement to Merge In Turn, or simply be happier than normal to let others go in front of us physically as well as psychologically, actually helped us to become more content with our own lives?
Why not monitor how long your next traffic delay takes and use the time to think about any other, far more important delays going on in your life and ask yourself the question, “In what ways is this delay serving me?” And then don’t forget to let the car in front go first!