During Holy Week, I had the rare privilege of spending ten hours all by myself. In the cab of a truck.
Our daughter Sharon needed to move surplus furniture, books, china, and quilting supplies to her new home, ten hours away, so that she could put an uncluttered home for sale. Dad got called on.
Driving long distances alone tires some people. Not me. Heavy traffic tires me. Blood pressure goes up; patience goes down.
But the open road induces a kind of harmony. Almost like meditation – although not the kind that involves sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, humming mantras and shutting out the world. Not a safe way to drive…
Rather, I cease being the driver, a different entity from the machine. And the road. Among the mountains.
After a while, vehicle, road, mountains, and I become a unity. I feel the asphalt through my bare tires. The V8 throbs like my heart. The steering wheel is an extension of my hands, which are an extension of my eyes…
It’s almost like music – many notes making a single chord.
During part of that ten hours, my freed mind mused on competitiveness.
In my youth, I was highly competitive. I hated losing. I felt as if I, personally, had let the side down. I had failed to perform at my best. I wanted my team to win. I needed to earn higher grades than my friend John.
I don’t recall how that changed. But I remember when I realized it had changed. At a staff retreat, I was playing ping pong with an associate. He had recently had multiple-bypass heart surgery. He worked himself into a lather trying to beat me.
And I remember thinking, “Winning isn’t that important.”
Now I no longer feel a need to pass the car ahead, just because it’s ahead.
In fact, if they’re going my direction, at about my speed, I’ll gladly let other drivers do the driving for me. I let them find the icy patches, the deceptive bends, the shattering potholes.
There’s no humiliation in being second. Or even third. It’s a comfortable position. On the highway, or in life. You can be respected and valued. But you don’t have to bear all the responsibility.
We don’t all have to be Number One.
In Canadian politics, Paul Martin made a great Number Two, but failed as prime minister.
Chris Chataway never made it to the top as a runner. But he paced Roger Bannister to the world’s first four-minute mile.
I wonder, sometimes, how Simon Peter felt when he suddenly found himself promoted to leader of the small disorganized band of Jesus’ disciples.
Of course – to mix metaphors a little – a ship needs a captain. Any ship navigated entirely by consensus will inevitably run aground on the nearest rock. But every captain needs a good first mate.
Ten hours alone in a truck cab reminded me that I don’t always have to head the pack. Following someone I trust has its own merits.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author of 17 books and several thousand magazine and newspaper articles. He welcomes comments; firstname.lastname@example.org.