Traffic Slug Tales: Driver in Tears Causes Concern
Slugging is typically not a very emotional experience.
Sure, a driver might get angry with another driver. A Slug might be afraid when a driver isn’t driving safely, or they might be upset by the driver’s choice of radio station. A Slug might even be annoyed when the driver is driving too slowly.
But usually, those types of feelings occur in extraordinary circumstances, which are few and far between. Generally speaking, Slugs and drivers meet at the Slug lines, ride together to work or back to the commuter lot and part ways without any feelings between them at all.
That’s why it seemed so strange when I noticed the driver I was recently riding with was crying throughout the entire ride.
Let me back up for a moment. That morning was not unlike any other morning, where I desperately searched for parking and hurried to the Slug line to make sure I was able to get a ride. A lady had been waiting as another Slug and I approached her car, and I got into the back seat. We all said good morning and confirmed that we were going to L’Enfant Plaza, and we took off onto the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes – it was all just like any other morning.
The music was turned down fairly low, but I could hear that it was a gospel music station playing on the radio. Although that station isn’t something that I would normally choose, I find that the music can be pretty catchy and don’t mind it at all. That is, until I began to notice the driver had a case of the sniffles.
At first, I thought maybe she suffered from allergies, like me. I took a deep breath in through my nose – nope, I was breathing just fine this morning, not stuffy at all. But her sniffles continued. And when I took a closer look, peering through the top of my dark sunglasses, I noticed a tear dripping from the bottom of her cheek.
I watched, not knowing what to do, as the driver wiped tears away from her eyes and continued driving. She didn’t say a word, but it was clear she was upset as she went on, quietly crying.
I wondered if the passenger in the front seat had noticed. And I wondered what could possibly be making her so sad. Was there any chance she was just having an emotional reaction to the song on the radio? That has happened to me before, although usually only when I’m alone.
I pondered other possibilities as well. Maybe today was her last day at work, and she was sad to say goodbye to colleagues who had become good friends? Could it be a fight with her husband? A lost family member? I couldn’t help but hope it was nothing so serious.
Then I realized that maybe she needed someone to notice. Maybe she needed help. I remembered the small pouch of Kleenex in my purse, and pulled out a single tissue. Normally, Slugs are expected not to speak to the driver unless the driver initiates conversation, but I decided it was best in this case not to ignore our troubled driver.
Offering her a tissue, I asked if she was alright. Giving a small, slightly embarrassed laugh, she insisted that she was fine, and quickly wiped her tears away. She made a couple of comments about the weather, about how hot it had been and how glad she was that it had stopped raining, but once she was quiet, I noticed the crying again. I wasn’t sure what else to do.
I got out of the car that day and thanked her for the ride as I always do, but never had I ever meant it more when I told someone to “have a good day.” All day, I thought about our Slug driver, and hoped that she would find some relief from whatever was upsetting her that morning. Maybe it sounds silly, but I hoped that my small offer in the car was a reminder that she wasn’t alone, and that there are people around who care. Maybe it didn’t help at all or wasn’t enough, and then again, maybe it was just what she needed.
I suppose I’ll never know what made our driver so emotional that day, but that’s just how the Slugging system works – Slugs and drivers rarely ever speak or get to know each other because they may or may not ever see each other again. And maybe it’s for the best that way. Either way, I hope that lady has seen better days since our last encounter.
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