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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My day in Traffic School

Hi, my name is Karen and I'm a red light runner.
I am powerless over the urge to accelerate at yellows and my driving skills have become unmanageable.
It's true. I got busted by Scottsdale photo radar twice - yes two times - within 60 days which means I had to spend my monday  - an incomprehensibly long time to sit on your buttocks - in "Just My Luck" traffic school. I am embarrassed, remorseful, a bit poorer, guilty but  As I sat in the class watching video footage of "Paul's Story: How my License was Suspended" I began to drift.  The room could have doubled for the waiting room that is Purgatory.

Imagine, if you will, not being shot by the intersection cameras but by a sniper.  You are pronounced dead and your corpse is zipped up inside of a black plastic bag.  Lights out amigos. The next scene is your soul entering the classroom of "Just My Luck" Purgatory where we are greeting by the angel Denise. She checks you in, gives you a manual, takes your token (like the one they needed to cross over the river Styx) and tells you that you are to stay seated until you are finished. Shock and awe is the expression of most of the unwitting "students".  They forgot to read the stuff that the court sent you...the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They thought this class was just a touch and go!   For real.  It's a long, indefinite period of something that we'll call time. As the shock of death has subsided some, we go around the room in Purgatory and introduce ourselves.  We are asked our name, our offense and just for fun...our pet peeves. Name is peeves are fun.  You get to project your anger onto other people's offenses and character defects.  But the offenses.  Those are a little embarrassing.  Some people are here for little offenses that they have committed numerous times. Others are here for big offenses that they committed just once and still others are here because they committed biggies multiple times.  It's not easy to talk about these things and most folks have an edge and an attitude about their offenses as though they are still someone else's fault.

That is until we began watching the videos and hearing the stories. Lives shattered and broken, sweet relationships spoiled by selfishness. I had no idea that I could check my sin record by just going to confession on a regular basis to make sure there were no outstanding violations. I missed the opportunities to balance my life by doing regular maintenance in my spiritual devotions. This caused a great deal of wear and tear on my precious soul. I feel immense pain and regret as I watch images of the people that I've hurt through carelessness and sin.

Angel Denise administered several quizzes to us while we were in Purgatory.  I thought I knew all of the answers but I quickly learned that I was a corner-cutter. The laws that I understood as a kid, had much deeper meaning when I was older and began traversing tougher terrain.  I never really updated my understanding of the Code of Conduct where all the laws are kept.  It seemed that most of the class had never taken the Good Book seriously either.  "You mean I really am my brother's keeper?"  The thought occurred to me as I sat on my stiff chair...I wish I could go back and change things.  I would have lived differently.

An immense longing for freedom coupled with a sober gratitude overtook me as I sat in my traffic school class on Monday.  I wanted to be in my car doing things right.  I was grateful for the privilege of a driver's license made poignantly clear to me by certain peers who had lost this freedom.  I made many resolutions: not to use my cel phone while driving; to stay out of the intersection box at all cost unless the light is noticeably green; to drive the speed limits and remain alert at the wheel; to set a good example for my sons.  But I also learned something deeper.

All of the lessons about driving can be a metaphor for living.  Stay devoted through prayer, frequent confession maintains one's spiritual health, be rooted in the Word, be mindful of the character defect weeds that can creep in, love God and love your neighbor.  Just as my driver's license gives me freedom to enjoy & travel the highways and byways, my living license allows me the privilege & freedom of doing God's will.  It is not a license to plow all over creation leaving mayhem and chaos in my wake.

Traffic school, not unlike purgatory is a great mercy.  I don't ever want to end up in traffic school again, but I am grateful for the insights that I received in my little stiff chair.


  1. Insightful comparison. It will make me more vigilant - not only in my car, but in my prayer life and dealings with others. Getting to confession in todays' church can be difficult at times - only one short hour a weekend. I'm old enough to remember two sessions each Saturday - one hour in the afternoon and one in the evening. There was no vigil Mass back then. And also on the Thursday before First Friday as well as the eves of Holy Days. That's what we need today - more spritual "traffic schools" where we can asess our behaviors and attitudes and reorient them toward the eternal destination. Thanks for this inspiring post.
    RedCat's Mom

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