Traffic Calming Ahead
I came upon this sign on a walk recently. Despite the fact that I have seen it many times before, it suddenly struck me completely differently. Traffic as calming? What if I thought about traffic as an opportunity to sit calmly? Huh..
This sign is meant to tell you that there is a big bump in the road ahead and is intended to make you slow down for safety reasons. In any other place this sign would say SPEED BUMPS AHEAD, but since this sign is in a retirement/golfing community in Florida, it says traffic calming ahead — think smaller, quieter, gentler, calmer. I mean the black and white SPEED BUMPS AHEAD sign tells you that the people in this area do not want you to drive too fast so they intentionally put huge bumps in the road to make you slow down. If you do not slow down you will likely damage your car when you fly over the bump. The smaller, quieter, happy yellow sign says “you’re probably in a golf cart and everyone here is doing things slowly because we’re all retired, but just in case you’re in a hurry today, we put these little bumps in the road and we really hope you will drive slowly and enjoy this slower, calmer pace of life we have around here.” Now we know that not everyone in this community is always calm and happy. They are dealing with health issues, family dramas and daily annoyances just like the rest of the world, but to you and me and the fed-ex or amazon driver it looks pretty calm and peaceful. We are just passing through and not really noticing.
The day that I saw this sign differently I had an epiphany, and as a pastor friend said to me, when you have an epiphany you should think ..huh…now what am I supposed to do about that? What if I could be calm in traffic? What if traffic, instead of annoying me and amping me up, could instead be a signal to slow down and be calm? I mean, when you’re in traffic getting all pissed off isn’t going to get rid of the traffic. What if the traffic is because someone ahead of me had a life threatening accident? What if the traffic is because there is a parade ahead? There are a thousand and one reasons for why there may be traffic, but none of them is going to change the fact that there is traffic.
I will admit that this all sounds really pie in the sky and I have been known to get very frustrated in the car. Just ask my kids about what I say while in the drop off/pick up line at school. However, what struck me about this sign on this particular day was that I read it differently than it was intended and it changed how I took in the message. I actually laughed out loud when I read it because in my head I heard “be calm in the traffic ahead” and there is NO TRAFFIC in this community! What I internalized was “when you’re in traffic in the future, calm yourself down because you’re not that special and you’ll get where you’re going eventually.”
I’ve seen this sign so many times when visiting my in-laws and I’ve never read the sign that way before. I think that’s funny. I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since and it’s sticking with me. So I’m going to print out this photo and put it in my car and the next time in traffic, or the drop off/pick up line, I’m going to (try) to see it as an opportunity for calm. I’ll let you know how it goes.