Which Lane Should I Choose?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

We’ve all been on multilane highways heading in the same direction. If so, we’ve calculated to the best of our ability as to which lane will move the quickest toward where we want to do. Or, we’ve been at the grocery store and approached the checkout counters with a cartload full of food products, trying to figure out which checkout aisle is best going to advance me toward the Exit door.

Especially when we’re in a hurry, these decisions can be important, and, when the one I choose proves to be wrong, it’s aggravating, to say the least, especially if other lanes or lines that I had initially explored, but then rejected, prove to be moving faster than the one I finally choose.

This situation is especially aggravating for older persons, belonging to a prior generation when the U.S. population was only half, or even a third of what it is now, and this overload of clientele on our road systems (which were actually narrower than they are now) or at our neighborhood grocery stores, which were usually just half the size of what they are now, is a generational phenomenon that some older folks never manage to negotiate, as they chafe under the time restraints imposed by scores of cars, or people, competing with us for a chance to move ahead. One of the commendable traits of the “younger” generation is the admirable patience they have acquired of waiting thirty or forty minutes in line, whether at the “expressway” toll-booth, or at the store or theater. They’ve never known it otherwise.

This drive to get on with it and to move ahead is behind the anxiety to pick the correct checkout point. And what especially aggravates is when we make a wrong choice and watch in fury as lanes or lines we’ve rejected move ahead, leaving us in the lurch. So finding the correct lane is all important, if only not to have to endure the smug smirks of those passing us by, and knowing how hard we’ve tried to get ahead.

But there can be redemption in this humiliating personal defeat. And the first instance of it occurs within ourselves, as we recalculate the whole foolish spectrum on display here and ask (having little or no other options): so what? Who cares? What does it matter? It’s not that important, anyways. And so we settle in for the long wait, at the end of the line. But maybe redemption occurs at this point, as our feverish anxiety cools off and we begin to think calmer thoughts, even pleasant, worthwhile thoughts, and look around and study faces, or entertain memories that sneak back into our mind. And, all of the sudden, we find ourselves at the head of the line and getting on our way.

And, if it be the turnpike that we once again engage, with our foot on the pedal, it may be a special delight to find ourselves, without trying, to pass up one of those unpleasant persons who was last seen far ahead of us near the toll booth. And we find out to our pleasant surprise that what we had taken as a personal defeat has in some unforeseen way turned out to have been the right choice anyways: defeat into victory.

So the question now becomes: what is the correct line, or lane? The one that meets our present sense of urgency and satisfies a clamoring need, or the one that leaves us with little or no choice in the matter other than to go along with what has developed, and change, not lanes or lines, but our own attitude. The result? What appeared to be the correct lane on the expressway now finds itself in contention with what initially seemed to be the wrong way to go. This is a modern version of Aesop’s fable about the hare and the tortoise. Would anyone have bet on the tortoise reaching the finish line ahead of the hare? There is more than one way to face possible right or wrong ways to go.


Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

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