The Courier

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Have you ever been in your car and found yourself wondering just what kind of people are behind the wheel of nearly every other car on the road? Or is it just me?

Howard Rittenhouse

Padre (Maj) Howard Rittenhouse

When we lived in Edmonton, my commute home meant that I had to take a two-lane street that narrowed down to one lane just before it crossed some railroad tracks. Almost every day, some less-than-courteous driver would roar up in the left lane and dive into the right lane at the last minute like we were at the Daytona 500. No doubt this mannerless person was chuckling to himself at what a skilled driver he was getting ahead of a long line of homeward-bound drudges like himself. What a coup!

In fact, he was no more than a jerk.

And I’ve run into this kind of driver (not literally) all over the world. Often, they’re driving BMWs. One of my former chaplain colleagues once drove into work with a brand-new BMW, and proudly rotted into the chapel where I asked him if he’d had “the course.” “What course?” “You know,” I replied, “the course all BMW drivers have apparently taken.”

He wasn’t impressed.

But I’ve been tail-gated, cut off, and generally maltreated by many drivers. 

Now, please don’t take offense if you drive one of these vehicles. Obviously, it’s not every driver of said conveyances who drives as though they have some God-given right to the road, but some do.  I found myself reflecting on this one day recently having been treated to yet another demonstration of lobotomized driving and responding with less than, shall we say Christian charity. It struck me then that I was just as bad as the driver who’d done whatever it was to provoke my ire.

Many people have found it to be the case that in private we act one way while in public we act another. Of course, we comport ourselves differently among our friends and family than we do with co-workers or strangers (or on social media?) and if one chooses to eat Cheerios in one’s underwear on a Saturday, what’s that got to do with anything? 

No, I refer to truly private conduct: alone in the car, or indeed, on social media, for example. In these situations, the real us, if you will, comes out. Someone once said, “Character is who you are when no one’s looking.” We can all act like grown-ups when others are around, but what are you like when no one’s around? What are you like alone on social media? What are you like alone in a car in heavy traffic? That’s the real you. 

And I don’t know about you, but I find that a little scary. Because I know me! I can be less than agreeable at times (ask my wife), but most of you will think that I’m a terrific guy and the best padre you’ve ever met (I expect quite a lot of emails from this one line). And I am, but I’m not always a good father, a good husband, or a good Christian. However, all hope is not lost. For none of us are saints in private or in the solitude of our minds.

For Christians of every denomination, Easter is the yearly reminder of that reality and what we believe God has done to rectify it. And for this, I am truly grateful … because when I’m in the car, there’s no halo around my head. 

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