My daughter – who is several years from driving age – has taken to saying ‘Stay in your lane!’ when she feels that someone is impinging on her (usually artistic or intellectual) territory. It took me by surprise when she started saying it, but now I’ve adopted the expression as my own.*
The other day I was driving to work on a somewhat curvy road and found myself thinking about how close I – and the other drivers in my lane, and the other other drivers, who were coming toward us – all were to the double yellow lines painted on the middle of the road. At any given moment we could be less than two feet from each other, driving at speeds that could cause serious mayhem if we got in each others’ lanes. The only thing that keeps us from crashing into each other are the yellow lines and (and this is key) our willingness to obey them.
All of which started me thinking about the other, more metaphorical yellow lines in our lives, the unspoken social guides that keep things orderly. We probably don’t even notice them most of the time, until someone gets too close or actually crosses them, and then things can go haywire.
I was in a situation recently where someone crossed the invisible yellow lines that separated us, hard and without hesitation. She did return to her lane, eventually, but it threw me off for days. This is someone I don’t especially like or respect to begin with, but with whom I am obligated to interact (isn’t being an adult grand sometimes?) and puzzling over how I was going to deal with the disruption took over my brain for longer than I was happy with. It took a couple of weeks, but things are back to a kind of normal now – actually, in some ways they are vastly improved – but it was a stark reminder for me of how valuable the unspoken rules of civil discourse are in daily life.
I don’t have any grand conclusions here, or words of wisdom, except maybe to go back to Ernie Banks, and the idea that ‘we care about things, but not too much.’ And that time and patience can sometimes solve (or at least smooth out) even really vexing problems.
* This is not, perhaps, the best example of staying in my lane, but then she borrows my clothes all the time. And when I do say it, I usually say it to her, so there’s some symmetry at least.
(Yellow line image by Fred via Flickr.)
(Posted today as my Day 25 entry in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge)