Traffic can be enough to push us over the edge - especially with some not-so-nice drivers out there.

Boomer Unchained: Impatience, Traffic, & Our Health

Published Date: 2019-07-15

You’re driving south on Route 1 from Lewes to Rehoboth on a Saturday in July. You’re going to meet a few friends for lunch at Arena’s Cafe, an easy place to get to when the traffic is heavy and the parking is impossible.  

Then it happens.

 Someone whips in front of you and slams on their brakes. You have to slam yours on, too but the driver behind you isn’t as fast on the pedal. You hear a crunching sound. As if having an out-of-body experience, you realize the sound came from the rear of your car. You jump out to discover there’s hardly a dent in that fairly new, plastic-covered, steel bumper. But you are angry, and don’t know who to yell at first, the rude driver in front of you with the out-of-state plates, or the young, inattentive one in the rear who’s peering at you from behind a cell phone.

My blood boils just to think about these annoying drivers, like those who clog up intersections (such as Five Points) when they should have realized they would be in the middle of it when the light turned red.

Driving around coastal Delaware in the summer, especially on holiday weekend Saturdays, can be frustrating. Ever since the population-snowballing effect of Hurricane Sandy, residents in our retiree community talk about the traffic more than they do about the weather. Of course, any such conversation is often paired with a complaint about greedy builders and too much development on the area’s lovely open spaces (NIMBY).

I bring up the topic of losing our cool in traffic up because of our generation’s focus on being healthy. Losing our tempers and getting frustrated in traffic is not good for our health. The person with his or her nose stuck in a cell phone won’t notice when our chest tightens and our lips turn to pencils. However, several studies I’ve found online report we frustrated drivers are the ones who are going to suffer physically. There are studies linking anger and frustration to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even hastened aging. Shouting out a window at an annoying driver can lead to increased cortisol in the blood that can equate to such negative health consequences as anxiety and osteoporosis, according to healthline.com. Anyway, for sure, these angry feelings and uncontrolled outbursts don’t do anything to the presumed offender, but only hurt the one shouting. We know we are causing harm to ourselves instinctively, even if we are not confident in what an online source may tell us (I’m cynical: Will a burst of anger cause osteoporosis?).

We also know that once we get our hackles up, it’s hard to get rid of that negative feeling when we get to our destination. The comment, “You wouldn’t believe...”  we vocalize as we walk into someone’s living room won’t endear us to our friends. In fact, our negative aura can decrease our chances to be included in future social gatherings. People don’t want to be around negative people and that bit of road rage we uttered paints an aura of gloom around us. I’m sure you have experienced someone at a party whose negativity drifted into your space and reminded you to delete him or her from your next gathering.

I hope I don’t sound preachy because I have recognized this personality fault, which I call here ‘impatience,’ in myself. As I get older and hope to keep my friends for as long as possible, I have targeted a more kind, loving and patient personality as an important goal.

“They” (isn’t there always a “they?”) say impatience is a characteristic of a Type A personality. You remember when we used to hear about Type A personalities, people who wanted to be in charge, who were outgoing, competitive and got things done. They were the ‘workaholics,’ the ones in our capitalistic American society that were promoted into management positions, or who ran successful businesses. I was definitely one of those. I worked so many hours as a newspaper reporter I got in trouble with the union. I also got a promotion to business editor, which in corporate terms was equal to a department directorship. At the time, I was one of only a handful women in the country to reach that role in the newspaper industry (according to my former executive editor). I must admit I could be rude, pushy, demanding, and often a pain in the neck. I actually overheard a reporter on my team once complain to her source, who didn’t like how the story turned out in the newspaper, that, “My editor made me do it.”

 To my credit, my daily newspaper sections met every deadline and reporters on my team had many stories run on front pages. Our stories earned awards and changed some lives.

Now, as we ‘baby boomers’ enter a less competitive time in our lives, those Type A characteristics may not be advantageous. Instead, personality-altering practices such as, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, Tai-chi, fishing, walking, and even painting, coloring and pottery making could calm our nerves and make us more accepting of those nettlesome drivers we are sure to come across on coastal Delaware roads this summer.

About Author

Susan L. Towers, M.S., retired from Beebe’s Marketing & Communications department in 2017 to pursue her writing, and to experience new adventures with friends and family. She serves on the board of Delaware Humanities, and is member of several organizations, including the Rehoboth Art League and the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild. She is an advocate of the arts and humanities, and is passionate about the outdoors.

Recent Posts

Blogs