How to Stop a Tornado
It's the kind of memory that sticks to the back of your brain like superglue, unmovable and unchanged by time, vivid as this morning's first cup of coffee.
As the child of divorced parents, I spent weekends with my father who used any chance he could to expand my horizons well beyond the small town where we both were born. He spent most of his small-town life as a truck driver with big-city aspirations and our weekends were typically filled with shopping, shows, parades, festivals, and movies.
This particular weekend was no exception as we headed to the big city mall and the moment we arrived, it became clear the parking garage was near capacity. As our car rotated up and around the garage, my father’s patience quickly spiraled downward, creating ideal conditions for the perfect tornado.
I only recall my dad losing his temper a few times in my life and each instance was centered around the road. It only took one slow driver, one parking spot thief or one disobedient car engine, for his usually-calm demeanor to be thrown out like an unruly teenager.
As we continued upward, it appeared we had reached the end of the rainbow as my father set his eyes on the one and only space left but, before we could claim our treasure, another driver stole what was rightfully ours. What followed was a string of 4-letter curse words so foreign to my virgin ears that my father may as well have been speaking in tongues.
But what happened next is nothing short of amazing. My father morphed himself from profanity-spewing truck driver into lesson-wielding teacher. He composed himself to a quiet calm as we proceeded back down the garage, the car jerking my frozen body with each forceful turn of the steering wheel, his silence creating a shallow dam for building rage.
As we re-approach the scene of the crime, he suddenly stops the car, sternly forces it into park, and retrieves a crow bar from the trunk.
“I’ll teach him a lesson!” He announces.
I like to think he took just a second to consider which lesson to teach with an 8 year-old in the car. He easily could have beaten that empty car to a bloody pulp, but instead chose to use the crow bar to bend the car's antennae perfectly in half, rendering it completely useless.
We drove away with my father’s sweet revenge, never to return to that mall again.
I share this partly for entertainment (if my father were here, he would certainly laugh along with me), partly as a confession, and partly as a call for advice. It’s possible my father taught more than one lesson that day; it’s also possible I inherited his road rage.
I am a fast mover – a fast walker, a fast thinker, and a fast driver. Two of my biggest pet peeves are slow walkers who insist on walking in the middle of the sidewalk and slow drivers who just won't get the hell out of my way.
My rage is a different kind of dangerous because rather than teaching “lessons” to those who move slower, I choose to internalize it all. I seethe until my blood boils. I work myself up into a hatred I’m not proud to admit but since I am good at hiding my anger, it’s a side of me not many see. Not only is it unnecessary and unproductive, but it’s unhealthy.
Patience in general is my constant work-in-progress. Most days, I am surviving with my tank so close to empty that the warning light is on and despite all of this awareness, I am not doing a great job at getting any better.
There is no inspiration in this post. I have no advice to give myself in this area so I am open to yours. If you would like to share your helpful hints for filling my patience tank, you may just help teach me a new lesson and perhaps lower my blood pressure in the process.