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Anita Stansfield: Speed limits, hazards on the freeway of life

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 5 2015 6:29 a.m. MDT

Thick traffic clogs the north and southbound lanes of I-15 in the construction zone in Lindon in April 2006. (Jason Olson, Deseret News archive) Thick traffic clogs the north and southbound lanes of I-15 in the construction zone in Lindon in April 2006. (Jason Olson, Deseret News archive)

Most of the time I have the privilege of working at home, but sometimes I have to drive into the city for interviews, meetings or other events that get me out of this little world where I and my computer hang out together. I consider myself a careful driver, and I’m generally very relaxed when I drive. But I often find my thoughts wandering as I observe what’s going on around me while I cruise up and down I-15.

For anyone reading this who might not have already known, I must admit that I’m a Mormon. And I try to be a good one. Like most Mormons, I’m oozing with flaws and imperfections and just trying to get my visiting teaching done by the end of the month, but I take my religion as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints very seriously. Living in a predominantly LDS community, I have to assume that the majority of people I encounter on the freeway have read the same Book of Mormon I’ve read, and probably the same Articles of Faith.

I always taught my children when they were fledgling drivers that if they wanted God to protect them while they were out on the road, they needed to keep the laws that have been put in place for a reason. If you’re speeding and being careless, can you also be praying that you’ll remain safe?

So, let me get this straight. We believe in obeying the laws of the land. Right? Then why do I feel like I’m often the only person out there trying to drive somewhere near the speed limit? With my cruise control set two or three miles over the posted speed, I try to get myself settled in a center lane where I won’t get in anybody’s way. And other cars just move past me over and over. I never drive anywhere without someone getting right behind me, making it clear that they feel great impatience over my impeding their desire to get somewhere in a hurry.

Where’s everybody going that’s so important? That’s what I want to know. I wonder how many of these vehicles are carrying women in labor or a bleeding child who urgently needs stitches. Either that, or those lunch dates and appointments must be awfully important — so much so that leaving home a few minutes earlier couldn’t possibly have been managed.

The thing that really gets to me are when the speed limit is posted in flashing lights with signs that proclaim fines will be double for speeding in construction zones. Do you think it’s possible that those signs are meant to be a warning and a protection more than an inconvenience that keeps you from making up the time you lost by lingering too long over your Cheerios that morning? Where have I heard that concept? General conference, perhaps.

Under construction

It seems like no matter which direction I go in order to get anywhere that matters, there’s always at least one section of road under construction. Something gets finished, and they start tearing up something else. Or sometimes they really offer drivers an adventure by having the detour route under construction so that you can do a detour within a detour. The bumpy roads, narrowed lanes and flagmen that make us stop and wait for traffic to flow the other direction can be annoying, especially when it’s a route you have to take regularly. But the reality is that we are always under construction.

Roads need improvement procedures to accommodate growing traffic flow, or to keep them smooth and free from the assaults of weather and wear and tear. People don’t improve if they don’t regularly assess the damages of life’s challenges and the normal wear and tear of just getting from week to week. I see road construction like going to the dentist. While it’s happening, it’s generally very unpleasant, but once it’s done, you’re very glad the problem has been fixed.

Car-pool lanes

It hasn’t been so many years since this concept was introduced on the freeways where I drive, and it took people around here some time to adjust. But it’s not difficult to figure out the benefits. If you have someone else in the car with you, then it’s legal to drive in the car-pool lanes. That helps you avoid traffic backups, and it can get you to certain areas much more quickly and smoothly.

In my life, I don’t have to think very long to know how grateful I am to not be in it alone. Without the love and support of family and friends, where would we be? I would be a wreck — no pun intended. For a smoother journey, keep someone close that you can trust.

And by the way, putting a cardboard cutout of your favorite actor in the passenger seat doesn’t count — either literally or metaphorically.

Road rage or not

I really don’t have a problem with people choosing to drive whatever speed they want, or how much time they allow to get to their destination. My whole point in this little exposÉ is that I don’t understand why so many other people are apparently upset with me for simply trying to mind my own business and just do what I’m supposed to do — obey the law. Sometimes driving the freeway can feel like a great-and-spacious-building experience. I can almost imagine the pointing and mocking of those who speed past me, cursing under their breath because I’m a speed-limit-driving nerd.

Of course, we all have bad days and slow starts and important places to be. It’s more the attitude we take about those things that I think we should pay attention to. The freeway really is a microcosm of life, so maybe we should ask some life questions of ourselves. Are we patient with others when they make a mistake? Are we quick to anger when we disagree with how someone else handles a situation? Are we so set on achieving our own goals and getting there in a hurry that we miss the needs of someone we might pass along the way?

I personally don’t think there’s any excuse for road rage. We all have moments when we feel frustrated or angry with those around us, but for a person to believe they’re entitled to feel enraged over it sounds like a form of casting stones. Now, where have we heard that analogy?

Arriving safely

My wish is for everyone who travels the freeway to arrive safely at their destination, even if that means arriving late, so that at the end of the day they can return home to their families and go on with their lives. Of course, sometimes bad things happen to good people — on the freeway and in life — but the ultimate destination of what we’ll face beyond this life is where we should really be putting our focus.

Life is more about a journey than a destination, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the destination is greatly impacted by the attitude we take throughout the journey. So, slow down and read the billboards. And smile and wave at your fellow travelers as opposed to glaring and honking. After all, we’re all headed the same direction.

Anita Stansfield has held the position of No. 1 best-selling author of women's fiction in the LDS market for more than 15 years. Most important of all, she is a mother of five. Her website is at www.anitastansfield.blogspot.com

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