Straight Talk: The Day The ‘Diva Died’
Written by Stella Nicholls
In a world where we are perhaps feeling a little ‘trumped’ at the moment beaten about by our perception of bad news. Where people who are intent only on their own gains, seem to be so ‘successful’ and we feel a bit hopeless to do anything ‘big’ enough to make a difference. Maybe it’s time to focus on something that can and does make a difference to the world – Love and our choice to respond with kindness to someone.
A wise man once said that ‘A kind word turns away wrath’ and I have found this to be true in my own experiences, especially seeing that I have my own version of ‘heating’ things up with my fiery temper.
I was driving to work, early one morning in South Africa, and had to manoeuvre right into the centre of Johannesburg – probably the busiest city in South Africa and also a city known for its high crime rate.
South African drivers are generally fearful of being hijacked, (or ‘carjacked’ is probably a more accurate term) and with over 17000 hijackings having been recorded in the 2017-2018 period, it’s understandable. Drivers are trained to remain on high alert while they sit stationary at a traffic light or intersection, watching all mirrors – scanning the surroundings like a human radar – keeping a large enough gap between you and the car in front to enable a quick ‘get away’ if danger ensues.
It is this constant tension and stress that I believe may act as a catalyst to ‘road rage’. The emotion of constantly feeling afraid, bubbles over into anger when someone needlessly ‘endangers’ you by perhaps driving too close or cutting you off. It is as if having to worry about crime or being hijacked is all-absorbing and for anything else, there is just no room; your ‘car kingdom’ has been invaded. Which leads me back to my story of driving into work along one of the busiest highways.
I was heading down an off ramp, which merged at the bottom with an off ramp from the other direction, meaning that traffic had to play nicely and merge too. On this particular morning I was running late, feeling wound up and as a result, of course, I felt I had right of way over everybody else. Who doesn’t in those circumstances, right? As I headed forward, wanting to reach Rissik Street first (a one-way multi-lane road into Johannesburg) another lady also thought she had right of way over everybody else. Game on. I accelerated past her, my 1300 Toyota sneaking ahead of her Citigolf and I edged in front of her as the lane merged. Victory! I thought to myself, my competitive streak satisfactorily appeased. But then, she had the audacity to hoot at me, when I had clearly ‘won’ the ‘race’ fair and square.
She then proceeded to drive too close to me, almost hugging my rear with her front bumper. I could see the whites of her eyes in my rear-view mirror, and I could also see her gesticulating madly and frothing slightly from the mouth, and I suspect that all sorts of expletives escaped from her perfectly painted lips. Feeling infuriated with her, I did the only sensible thing I could think of (not – I reacted in temper!) and braked. I don’t know what I expected to happen at this point, but I definitely wasn’t thinking logically and the ensuing crunching sound that I heard as she smashed into my rear, was calamitous – at least in my opinion.
As we both got out of our cars to inspect the damage, the scene played out in slow motion before me and I felt disconnected from myself, as though I was a spectator looking on. I turned to see several ‘rubberneckers’ looking shocked, amused, some looking gleeful at the scene that was unfurling. I looked at my bumper to see that not too much damage had been done and then I looked at her bumper, to see that her headlight was smashed. Finally, I looked at her, to find that she did look rather irate, but there was also fear behind her expression, and I’m fairly certain that I had the same look plastered all over my face.
In South Africa, if someone hits you from behind, they are generally seen to be at fault for driving too close, unless the driver in the first vehicle has been drinking alcohol, which I hadn’t (at 7h00 in the morning). But there was something in me, that knew that we were both to blame for this bumper bashing. We glared at each other for a second and then something in me prompted me to do the strangest thing. An action that I can only imagine was just as much a shock to her, as it was a surprise to me and not my normal behaviour but it was like instinct took over. I reached out and hugged her. Passers-by must have thought that they were seeing things; our crowd of spectators dissipated slowly, as we apologised to each other for our ‘road rage’. We agreed to each fix our own cars, not to take things further, and although we exchanged details, we never contacted each other, we stuck to our word and let it go. I realised then that the way we react is a choice and that love as an action can be way more potent than love as a feeling.
We may never know what the end of each other’s ‘stories’ was, but for me, it was a sobering moment. A moment when I realised that life is not all about me and my wishes. That was a day that my inner ‘diva’ died a little. I also can’t claim credit for being a ‘super loving’ person who always does the right thing, but on that day, love ‘conquered all’.
So, as we plough our way through 2019, many of us feeling helpless to change the way the world sometimes spins out of control, let’s choose to react in love rather than hate. A random act of kindness could make all the difference to someone’s day. A Mexican wave is started by a few, but soon the whole stadium is undulating in rhythmic harmony. Let’s make waves.
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