I have encountered a stressful event last night.
I was returning home from two long-day workshops very late at night, passing hours after my usual bedtime. Before that I was stacked in an aircraft for nearly three hours with noisy individuals. Before that I had to spent two full-day with two unfamiliar individuals who I had to work with in an unfamiliar setting which compounded the challenge further. Engaging in the whole situation, spending time with unfamiliar individuals and environment, it required a lot of energy of me. I am a person who doesn’t like travel and feel stressed in new place with new people. I am also aware of my tendencies when I am sleep deprived which was the state I was in. It doesn’t mean I wan’t able to manage it or I didn’t have a good time. I just had to face my own emotions and learn how to manage myself.
We flew back with the latest flight departing our previous city. We landed 10 minutes late and time was nearly 10pm. Because I live out of city, by the time I get home will be around 11pm. So what was in my mind at that critical time? “Get me home as fast as possible.” By this time, all accumulated stress and tiredness hit me hard. I was exhausted, very exhausted and I was aware my stress level was high. Oh! by the way, complicating this situation even further, I am aware that I will be travelling next two days again.
Alright. What happened?
I found a taxi easily, no cues, straight in. I didn’t even had a time to feel the outside temperature. Even though I had a carry on luggage and a backpack with me, the driver didn’t help me to get in. Okay. That’s fine. I can do it. Open the rear door and plong. I think it is the inner rubber seal of the door come undone. Well, saying undone is very nice, it was actually falling down on me. Somehow managed to get in and untangled myself. Here the trip begins.
I said my address and the driver just drove off without asking for further clarification. “Oh… he must know where he’s going. Great. I can relax now and let him drive.” This was my thought.
Soon after, the car was wobbly so I looked up instead of my phone and just check what he was doing. He was trying to find the address on his mobile phone. Alert! Alert! Destructed driving. “Oh! that’s very dangerous. I can’t trust him.” This is my natural thought.
“Do you know where we are going?” I asked so I can add more information if necessary.
“Yes. I have found it.” The driver was still doing something on his phone.
By this time I have no trust in his driving technique so I would look up every time I sensed something. I quickly texted my sister-in-law, who was awake at the time, that I am in a taxi on my way home, just in case.
It was a very scary ride. I started to curse myself why I didn’t refuse to get on at first place. My stress level just kept raising every time I have noticed him speeding, auto-piloting, going over the line, couldn’t turn properly, near misses, and tuning his radio while driving.
More he did dangerous driving, more I cursed myself of not getting off or call him on it.
Eventually, this stress turned into an anger. I was so angry about myself and the whole situation I was in. I wanted to post him on the social media and report to his manager etc. I was so busy to control my own emotion so I kept quiet majority of the trip. I knew exactly where we are so I wasn’t worried about that. But I can feel my anger and stress were building up.
“I need to do something to destruct him so at least he won’t auto-pilot.” I told myself but didn’t really want to engage with anyone after two full-day. I know I had no much choice because my safety was the priority over my emotion. So I started by asking whether he know where we are going.
I can see his mind returned to the moment when I asked that question. Then his driving was greatly improved, more cautious and smoother. “Yes. We will be there in 9 minutes.” he said. “Although it is not my preference but I can talk to him for 9 minutes.” So I shared a bit about my stressful two-day workshops and my trip back to Brisbane etc. Then, he started to speak up too.
By the end of that 9 minutes, I was relieved that I am at my home not only safely but amazed what have just happened.
Dialogue starts from the courageous willingness to know and be known by others.
It is painstaking and persistent effort to remove all obstacles that obscure our common humanity.Daisaku Ikeda
It took me 15 minutes to find enough courage within myself to speak with the driver. It wasn’t my intention to have a dialogue with him nor to even speak unnecessarily. However, because we had a dialogue, we ended up with a great encounter for a very late night. I was his last customer of tonight and probably unusually long drive for him too.
When we are no longer able to change a situation,
We are challenged to change ourselves.Viktor E. Frankl
Reflecting on the situation tonight, I was challenged to move beyond my comfortable zone and have a dialogue with this driver. I had to face my emotions, acknowledged them, and used them in a way that I would never imagined when I got off from my flight tonight. It wasn’t easy to go beyond my comfortable zone but it wasn’t a huge step either. That little step of the night changed how I perceived the whole situation.
What will you do when you feel you need to change your current situation?
Can you imagine what might be the consequences?
How can you change your current encounter?