The other day, at a three-way intersection, my car approached the stop sign at the same time as someone headed in the opposite direction. The other driver motioned for me to proceed, and I motioned for him to do the same. He smiled and firmly waved his hand. I did the same. Slightly amused and slightly annoyed at the standoff, I rolled down my window and yelled, “After you!” He acknowledged and headed down the road toward the rest of his life.
Later, contemplating my kindness, I pondered what became of this young man. Had my kindness perhaps led him on a virtuous path towards greatness? Maybe, at the next three-way intersection, he had insisted on going second, thus changing the life of the other stopped individual. Reveling in the fact that, in all likelihood, I had saved humanity with my selfless act, I celebrated with a glass of scotch, neat, when I arrived home. Paying it forward feels pretty excellent.
Think of the things we can accomplish just by insisting that someone go through a stop sign first, I thought.
A four-way stop? The opportunities are endless!
The individual I undoubtedly saved from a life of being second through stop signs will probably go on to win a Nobel Prize, or at least a Grammy, which is a decent reward for getting to my desired location 4.2 seconds later than I would have.
My kindness can’t be understated in this matter, nor my humility. It’s a foregone conclusion that what I did isn’t normally done. In a world of needing to go first, I settled for second—and I didn’t detect anything but genuine appreciation from the individual I let “win,” as his moving car sped past my stationary one.
Now, I go second at all times. In fact, if I approach a stop sign that has no additional cars waiting to take their turn, I wait until a car arrives. I’ve only waited, at most, 3 hours to take my turn. I bring a sandwich. This does annoy anyone who happens to be in their car behind mine. They, however, don’t understand how addicting it can be to genuinely impress someone. When they blare their horn and call me a “Jackass,” it hurts, but I am emboldened by the virtuous deed I am doing for humanity.
Try it, cynical human beings. For you, too, will be overcome with an immense sense of gratitude.
Look, the world moves in a blur in every possible way. If one’s car isn’t racing, their mind or their heart or their feet surely are. We build things up in life; always looking for the next big thing, when the important moments occur in the in-betweens.
Actually, don’t try it. It’s my thing. If everyone insisted on letting someone else go first, no one would go first, chaos would ensue, and I would be vilified for creating this plague on society. Ignore this piece. It’s not for you. You go first. I’ll be the hero.