I was traveling recently by plane and noticed most people are friendly, nice, and polite. Although I have gray hair and sometimes I’m not as spry as my younger years, I don’t expect anyone to treat me any different. I do expect a little consideration though. Have you noticed that some people just seem to have an air of entitlement? And have you noticed that they seem to be the people of a younger generation?
When I was a teacher, I had a lesson about once a week that I called social skills. I would create lesson plans for my middle school students that reminded me of those etiquette books of old. Most of these lessons were foreign ideas to many of these generation Z students. I covered things like polite phone usage, how to pass someone in the hallway, and even safe social media usage. Of course, we’d make the lessons more fun with examples of the way not to do things and the kids loved acting those out best, laughing and giggling the whole time we were play-acting.
I was really appalled this week on a flight to Denver. I tried really hard to ignore a 30-40-something who was yapping on her phone the whole time in the seat next to me as the plane prepared for flight. Rude, I thought to myself but I put one finger over my right ear and continued reading my book. But then, when the flight attendant started her little talk that we’re all supposed to listen to and she was still jabbering away, I felt the need to tap her arm and put my finger to my mouth in a “shhhhh” gesture.
Of course, she got mad at me and said she was going to report me and I said, “go ahead” but she didn’t. I just don’t even think she realized she was doing anything wrong. And I can guarantee you that everyone sitting around me was as annoyed as I was. But the people that have these behaviors don’t get it. And maybe you can’t teach people at that age how to be thoughtful and polite of their fellow passengers.
That makes me sad. I don’t want to live in a world of sociopaths and go-getters, and Gordon Gecko types from Wall Street. Maybe I’m sheltered too much in the retirement community I live in. Maybe I have rose colored glasses and the real world isn’t the way I would wish. But I surely hope not and I will keep visualizing a world and society where every individual is respected and being polite is the norm.
This essay was written in the summer of 2019 after I’d been on the road full time for a little over one year.
There’s something to be said for driving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m retired I really don’t have any deadlines and I’m finding that, at 61, I’ve started driving like an old lady, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed bird observing and seeing the sites but before I bought the motorhome, I was always on my way to somewhere else. I would slow down as I passed an interesting lake full of migratory birds or tiny waterfalls along winding mountain roads but then I was back up to speed limit, maybe a little faster even, feeling annoyed at slower drivers in front of me, especially if it was a trailer or large RV.
Then I bought the motorhome. That was in 2016. It’s not a large motorhome, only 24 feet, about the size of one of those small specialty busses you see driving around town or to the airport. My motorhome was actually smoother to drive than my little Hyundai car, with a powerful V10 engine and cruise control. And you can really see all the traffic up ahead unless you’re blocked behind a semi. I was very cautious at the beginning. But driving it soon became second nature and I found myself realizing I could go the speed limit, even on the freeway, with no issues at all as long as I had put all my stuff away properly.
When I retired mid-2018 and headed out after selling the house, all of a sudden, I found that I didn’t want to drive the speed limit anywhere. How can you drive across New Mexico at 75 mph when there is so much to look at everywhere? As I started getting in the habit of driving more leisurely, I found that all those little cars and semi-trucks in such a big hurry would just pass me and be on their way like they’d never even existed. I felt like I was in my own little world traveling down the highways in a different dimension from everyone else and that other dimension changed me mentally too. I noticed that the anger I used to have often in traffic was gone and my concerns for what other drivers might think of me had also dissipated. It was a really freeing feeling.
Sometimes, my son will call me early in the morning when he’s on his way to work and while we’re talking, he’ll start cussing out the “stupid” drivers next to him and I can feel him getting really worked up. I don’t like him to be in that position but he always brushes it off later as “that’s just the way it is.” I’ve mentioned that there are several country roads that he could take all the way to work and avoid the freeway. It might add fifteen minutes to his commute but it would save a lot of merging, cussing, and aggravation. He does not agree with me. We shall see if things change when he retires.
I was in a hurry once with the motorhome. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I told the folks in Sacramento I would arrive for Thanksgiving, even though I hadn’t planned to be back until closer to Christmas time. They were missing me and my dad even sounded a little depressed on the phone. It’s the least a daughter can do I felt, as they had been very supportive of my taking off and wanting to travel the country. So I allowed myself eight days but was hoping to make it in less.
It was November so I didn’t want to take I-40 back due to high elevations in parts of the country that might see snow and ice. I decided to take I-10 which follows the border to Mexico. I did 3,076 miles and arrived on day eight of my journey. The longest day’s drive was 518 miles which was my second day traveling across Texas.
I was in such a hurry to get the whole week over with, I left by 8:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t stop until 5:00 or 6:00 every night, which included at least two stops per day because of the dogs. All I have to say is that I will never do that again. I think it took me a month to recover. From now on under 200 miles per day is my goal and I will take ten days to get somewhere that is 1,000 miles away if I have to.
Recently, things changed again. I am now towing a car. Even though the towing is pretty much seamless, you can’t even feel it and it turns like a dream, I find myself driving very cautiously. It says on the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) that the speed limit is 50 to 75, “no tolerance” they add on the sign. So I picked 60 mph, set my cruise control and drove 130 miles no problem. People didn’t get mad at me, they just passed me and I was left alone to enjoy my own little world of scenery and peacefulness.
I’m sure as I get more bold with the towing situation, I will start to feel more comfortable going faster, except maybe on city interchanges, but why go faster? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m not breaking the law, and I’m enjoying a blissful, stress-free retirement.
So when you are behind a slow moving motorhome towing a car and starting to get steamed because you can’t pass, don’t get mad. Think about those retired people in front of you enjoying the scenery and not having a care in the world. And hope that one day, you can be like that.