Friday, January 18, 2013

Dating and Driving, No. I

I recently discovered a curious flaw in my driving habits. When I want to change lanes in moderate traffic, I don't flip on my turn signal and wait for my fellow drivers to create an opening for me. Instead, I wait for the natural ebb and flow of traffic to create an opening, then I flip on my turn signal and move over.

As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of agitation when my fellow drivers fail to ebb and flow the way I want them to. At this point, I have to speed up, slow down, utter a few choice words, and finally flip on my signal and force my way over, all the time cursing the oblivious driver who was happy to pass the day away sitting comfortably in my blind spot.

It occurs to me that I behave the same way socially. If I see a girl at a party that I want to meet, I don't "flip on my turn signal" and go meet her. Instead I wait for the ebb and flow of the party to create a natural opening, which rarely if ever happens. Usually the girl leaves the party, or I wind up forcing some kind of hasty introduction which goes badly.

Clearly the lesson has something to do with being assertive in life, and one of these days I'll get around to learning it. In the meantime I can take solace in the fact that I'm not the first person to connect my driving life to my dating life.

Several years ago when I was in grad school, I came back to Salt Lake one weekend to pick up a pair of glasses I had ordered. Since I was in town for a couple of days, I decided to attend church at my old university ward on the University of Utah campus. As I made my way up 400 south Sunday morning, I seemed to hit every possible red light, often at the last second, and it became clear that without a break or two I would be late for sacrament meeting.

I really hate walking in late for sacrament meeting. So whenever the light would change to green, I would stomp on the gas and try to squeeze past the next light. This never happened, and after an extremely agitating run, I finally made it to the Institute building and just barely slipped into the meeting on time. It was a fast and testimony meeting, so surrounded by a number of familiar faces, I settled back into my bench to enjoy what my old friend Nathan used to refer to as, "Open Mic at the U32."

About two or three testimonies in, a girl I had never seen before got up at the pulpit and began to weave a tale of frustration and fury worthy of the most scorned of women. Apparently on her way up to campus that morning she had encountered the most prideful and arrogant driver she could possibly imagine. This pompous fool was so determined to show off for his fellow commuters that he insisted on peeling out at every green light, just to show everyone how great he was.

Imagine the nerve.

Try as she might, after a couple of intersections this poor victim couldn't resist temptation any longer, and she began trying to race this highway menace and put him in his place. But her gallant effort failed as her bitter adversary continued to beat her to each red light.

"I didn't get a good look at him," she said with a weak laugh, "for all I know he's sitting in the chapel right now."

But here is where the story got good. To the bemusement of the congregation, this girl's testimony made the impressive leap from driving angst to dating angst, and she described in vivid, near-hysteric detail how her road rage triggered a host of pent-up emotions that had been boiling under the surface. Near tears, the girl poured her heart out into the microphone about how the whole experience stirred up her frustrations of being single, and ultimately served as a reminder that God still loved her in spite of all her imperfections.

Finally at the end of all this she blurted out, "I'm really not a man hater...I promise."

Good to know. For once in my life, I guess I was the oblivious driver.

I was tempted to get up next and tell the innocent story of how my desire to get to church on time served as a heartwarming reminder of why God still loved me. But I didn't. I may come up with mean ideas, but I rarely if ever follow through on them.

Besides, even back then I understood how dumb things like a morning commute could make me stress out about my dating life.

I agree. I'm also pretty sure He and the apostles would use the HOV lane instead of blocking the fast lane.