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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Vegan Awesome in Traffic



I was stuck in traffic on my way to work this morning. It wasn’t really that bad as far as traffic goes. After spending a year driving the beltway in our nation’s capital every morning and afternoon, I know what real traffic is. This morning was not so much traffic as it was a small two-minute hiccup in my daily routine. However, because it’s been almost six months since my D.C. driving days, I was perturbed by the slight inconvenience. It was in this brief period of annoyance that I thought about how I could possibly look at traffic from a vegan awesome point of view. True, there was no opportunity in the car to refrain from consuming animals, nor was there an opportunity to show others just how awesome this refrain could be. However, the true essence of vegan awesome is simply to be vegan, and to be awesome. I began to ponder.

To be vegan, one could attest, is to be many things. Perhaps a vegan is environmentally conscious. Perhaps a vegan is all about nutrition and health. Perhaps a vegan is morally sympathetic. Whatever the reason is, I think that all full-fledged vegans have to have some level of compassion in order to make it work. To stray from so many traditions and deal with the criticism that many vegans face must be driven by something strong, and compassion is a strong concept. Therefore to me, the essence of being vegan lies somewhere in the realm of compassion.

To be awesome is simply to exude such a positive reflection of yourself that you are undeniably likeable. While no one is liked by everyone, if you make yourself consistently humble, kind, and happy, then you’re bound to be awesome. After thinking of these two concepts, it became clear to me exactly how being vegan awesome could help me in my battle against traffic.

First of all, I realized that my battle wasn’t at all against traffic. More so, it was about my impression of traffic; that is the annoyance that I attached to it. Once you attach annoyance to an event or even a person, agitation at every little thing ensues. Think about it. If you don’t like someone, aren’t they far more likely to irritate you no matter what it is they do? I think so. I looked around at the people in the cars surrounding me. There was a young woman looking very exhausted and almost emotionally damaged to my right. There was a middle-aged man on a cell phone with an impatient ambience about him. Behind me was a woman in her thirties driving a Suburban who proceeded to cut off someone in the lane to the right of me (I would learn shortly that she’d find it necessary to cut me off as well). All around me, as cars passed by, I saw the same looks of anger, frustration, impatience, worry, etc, etc. I think that the first problem with people’s impression of traffic is the concept that everyone involved is competing against one another to get to the proverbial finish line. This isn’t the case at all. As I noticed everyone feeling the same way, I realized we weren’t competitors, but rather we were all teammates in the sport of traffic. We were all frustrated and upset and we all had the same goal… to make it to work on time.

Once I came to this realization I started rooting for the people around me and trying to help everyone out. I ensured that my signal was always on prior to changing lanes, and I always smiled and waved when a teammate let me into their lane as if to tell me that they had my back. I let people in at any chance I could, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie.

“Way to go, lady-putting-on-make-up-in-the-rear-view-mirror!” I cheered, as the maroon Honda Civic made it through the intersection before it turned red.

“Right back at you angry businessman!” I waved at the Dodge that I let in front of me.

This type of attitude made me feel genuinely hopeful that all of my teammates would emerge victorious and be on time to their destinations. Before I knew it, the traffic had passed, and I was pulling into the parking lot of my office, on time and feeling far less stressed then usual. Taking this approach and realizing that everyone you’re around is in the same predicament as you is not only an exercise in compassion, but also of humility and patience. The humble fact that you are no more important than the rest of the people on the road combined with the patience to simply enjoy the solidarity or the music in your vehicle can be a rewarding experience. So while this may not be an exercise in veganism or further the cause of animal rights, it’s definitely an exercise in the concepts of being vegan awesome. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you enjoy your morning commute a little bit more.