Nowadays with all of the technology that we have at our disposal, we are used to getting results almost instantaneously. When we need to get somewhere we can hop on the highway (specifically built to avoid the delays that are caused by traffic within cities) and get there faster. We can check ourselves out at the grocery store to avoid long lines. We can order on the internet nearly anything we can imagine, and depending on how much we are willing to pay for shipping, it is delivered to our doorstep possibly within less than 24 hours. We are a world full of people (in the developed countries, at least) who are used to not having to wait for anything at all.
Therefore, it is no wonder that we as a people, are also disposed to getting angry quickly when things don't go our way. Perhaps the reason that in the past 10 years terrorism and hate crimes have been steadily increasing is because the people who commit these crimes are the minority victims of a culture who spurns those who can't “keep up”. Did anyone ever think that along with the invention of the iPhone, that would increase people's tempers? Certainly not. But, how often have you in the past year, let's say, been victim to angry outburst of someone else over a trivial topic?
Let me give you an example from my own personal experience that happened today. I was driving the car here in Germany and I was stopped at a red light. I don't normally drive stick shift in the USA and so I'm not quite as fast at starting when I'm stopped as most stick shift drivers are. Then the light turns green, and the guy in the car behind me in the same second as the light changed totally LAYED on the horn like for what seemed an eternity. Of course this unexpected disruption scared the shit out of me when I was trying to concentrate on what I was doing, and I (regrettably!) gave the guy the finger because it was the only thing I could do in that moment since I was so frustrated, embarrassed and defeated. Somehow (as if by a miracle of God) I managed to get the car started in that hullabaloo and lurch through the light and into the left turning lane at the following red light. No surprise now, the guy behind me is tail-gating me as if there was no tomorrow, and I'm now completely afraid that he's going to honestly ram into our car. Meanwhile my boyfriend in the passenger's seat is unaware that the guy is still behind us and driving like a maniac, and keeps telling me not to drive so fast and to drive slower (while I'm terrified of getting into an accident in a foreign country with a car that isn't even mine!) and we arrive at the third red light.
Now here's where it gets COMPLETELY LUDICROUS.
I am the first car stopped at the light waiting to cross an intersection and the guy is still behind me who honked at me earlier. We are waiting at the light when I see from my side view mirror that the guy has gotten out of his car, slammed his door, and is proceeding to stomp over to my driver's door. I think to myself in these three seconds, “Gosh, is the door locked?” and in that same moment that I'm looking to see if it's locked (which of course it isn't!!! How does that work!?!?) the guy RIPS OPEN MY DRIVER'S SIDE DOOR INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC AS CARS ARE NEARLY HITTING MY DOOR AND HIM and proceeds to shout at me (in German) “LOOK HERE LITTLE GIRL, IF YOU EVER GIVE ME THE FINGER AGAIN I'LL DO SOMETHING MORE TO YOU THAN JUST TAILGATE YOU!” while my boyfriend is totally surprised (since he didn't see the guy get out of his car in the first place) and says to the guy “Okay, please calm down”, as the guy must have weighed at least 250 pounds and was already red in the face from shouting at us. Sadly, I was too terrified and shocked to have said anything in this moment because all I could think was, “How is this happening?! He can't just open a total stranger's car door into oncoming traffic! That has to be illegal! It's not even his property that he's touching! How is this happening?!?! Is he going to hurt us?!?!” and so he slammed the door in my face once he was finished with his yelling and stormed back to his car.
This episode, of course, was really too much for me to handle as a 1.) foreigner, 2.) not-100%-yet-comfortable-newly-learned-stick-shift-driver, 3.)woman (how dare he call me a 'little girl') and 4.) private person who is legally supposedly protected from threats from strangers, and endangerment to their life and property by someone else's maniacal driving. If I had had my wits about me I would have quickly locked the door before he even got there. And if I couldn't have done that, then I would have said to the man after he was finished yelling, "May I have your name? I'd like to call the police for you threating to hurt me just now. Please pull your car over and wait here with me."
However, instead I proceeded to drive home in shock with tears pouring down my face (sorry, I wish it wasn't the case, but I couldn't do anything else but feel totally helpless in the wake of such a terrible personal rape of my psychological power and feeling of safety) and then parked the car and (sadly) yelled to my boyfriend that I was “NEVER DRIVING IN THIS COUNTRY AGAIN!”.
Then after a longer time of trying to mentally get over what had happened to me from a complete stranger over the action of sticking ONE FINGER up at him (GO FIGURE! WHAT IF I HAD USED MY PINKY FINGER!? WOULD HE HAVE NOTICED!?!? WOULD HE STILL HAVE REACTED THAT WAY!?) I realized that this was at the root of things, a story about the precursors to terrorism. He felt pressured, he honked. I felt pressured, I acted out in a not nice way. He reacted to my action in a very not nice way, and in the end I was the one who got damaged psychologically, and almost physically by his dangerous driving and potential beating-up-of-me when he opened the car door (I mean, who the heck knows what he would have done had my boyfriend not been in the car with me!?).
I thought to myself, if he had only given me a bit more time when I stopped at that first red light before he decided to honk at me so mercilessly, this all would never have happened!
Then, I hit upon an idea. I taped into the back window of my boyfriend's car this sentence: “Ich habe Epilepsie, ich fahre langsamer!” (translation: I have Epilepsy, I drive slowly!) and I hope that now that might give me in the future those precious few seconds that I need to escape any further situations like this one that happened today.
But, to sum this up in the big picture, that guy in the car behind me needed patience. Patience is in such short supply nowadays, and it's the thing which makes difficult situations bearable. It helps us stay calm when we are provoked. It helps us put things in perspective. It keeps our children from freaking out when they're somewhere they don't want to be/doing something they don't want to do. It allows for understanding when someone doesn't react or act in a way that you expect. It helps us when we are disappointed. It's honestly the one thing that we are SO OFTEN LACKING in our everyday interactions with our fellow human beings and with ourselves. We simply expect too much perfection too quickly (which leads to anger, angry actions, dangerous situations...and any number of bad things)!
I am sure that each and every one of you has a story of getting angry or being mistreated which would have never happened if one or both of the people in the situation had exercised patience. So, I urge you for every day of the rest of your lives, to remember, that although nowadays we are spoiled and expect things to happen in the blink of an eye, when they DON'T, use patience to resist the urge to have an angry outburst and take it out on your fellow human beings. It's not pretty, no one wants to see it, and it's something which can never end good. So, the answer to the world's problems nowadays: Patience!