Gridlock Guy: Holy Week, sacrifice, and a better commute

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A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association has bad news. They say pedestrian deaths are at their highest in the U.S. since the '90s. The GHSA estimates 6,227 pedestrians were killed in car accidents in 2018. All other traffic deaths are declining, the report said.

Pushing my deadline back for this Gridlock Guy column was a good idea this week. Procrastination allowed me to attend Buckhead Church’s Good Friday service before sitting down to write. The story of Easter really put me on a thought train about our vehicular travails. So even if you don’t track with Judeo-Christian traditions, there is a theme that is both very powerful and disarming from Holy Week that could ease the painful Atlanta commute. Sacrifice. Selflessness.

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Even if you only believe that the crucifixion-resurrection story is just a fairytale, it is about as lopsided and unjust as they come. Jesus, the blameless and deified Messianic rabbi, got sentenced to death for blasphemy. He predicted and preached that his death was the solvency to save all of humankind from the damnation of their sins. A perfect man willingly died because all other humans are imperfect. This isn’t exactly fair for Him.

In the lead up to the terrifying and stultifying events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, Jesus of Nazareth selflessly took his time investing in a group of mentees. The Apostles had no idea of the gravity of the yoke they chose to wear. They learned it after the great sacrifice and miracle of Easter. The lesson pushed them into lives of self-sacrifice and eventually on to grizzly deaths for their cause. Yes, this is a heavy consequence, especially when weighed against Atlanta rush hours.

By the time of the Last Supper, the last night Jesus was alive, his followers knew he was special. Yet He got down on His hands and knees and then washed their nasty feet. He deserved exactly the opposite treatment, but acquiesced to prove a greater point about sacrifice.

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Now, imagine being hell bent on an arrival time. You are leading the meeting. You are driving the carpool. You are coaching the soccer game. Your goals are certainly more important than the person you are cutting off or not letting in in front of you. In fact, if that (insert mean moniker here) had any idea how important you were, they wouldn’t drive like such a (insert mean moniker here).

The above example may be an exaggeration, but many of us drive in selfish, complacent bubbles. I, for one, find myself drunk with selfishness and apathy behind the wheel when I’m trying to, say, get to my Captain Herb Ballroom in Chamblee in time for my 2:30 p.m. traffic shift. All of these unsavory characteristics cause bad traffic and ill will.

Our commutes are hard enough, even when traffic is just sluggish and we are having a great day. But when the clouds of angst, selfishness, apathy, and complacence gather, we end up driving in a metaphorically stormy commute. We know that driving and thunderstorms do not mix.

The examples of Messianic sacrifice and bullish self-centeredness may seem extreme, but they illustrate and juxtapose major underlying solutions and problems to our crazy traffic system. An array of secular and spiritual motorists should agree: a little bit of “You first, then me” can go a long way. And that compromise and sacrifice can make going a long way take less time. And even if selflessness saves you zero time, the spread of goodwill can make all parties happier.

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Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on Contact him at