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Nick Mezacapa: Rules of the road have broader applications to life

Join me in reviewing our approach to safety, mutual respect, courtesy and practicality.

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Post Bulletin columnist Nick Mezacapa.
Post Bulletin file photo
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It seems to me that most of us drivers only have a vague recollection of the most basic driving rules. Remember the process? In preparation for the written test, we either studied the pamphlet, with all of the signs and road laws, or we took "Driver’s Ed."

Both taught us about railroad crossings, stoplights, crosswalks, stop-signs and yield signs, etc. We learned that the "rules of the road" focused on safety, mutual respect, courtesy, and practicality.  We were motivated by the liberating idea that we would soon be behind the wheel!

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Well, when we came to the day of the written exam, we did good enough to be awarded a temporary permit that allowed us to practice driving with an adult, licensed driver in the car. Then, with several hours of supervised driving practice (and the arrival of our 16th birthday), we could take the road test, with an examiner in the car to grade us. We turned. We signaled. We checked mirrors. We parked. We passed!

But over time, the details and intentions of the road rules have been subjected to our self-centered needs to get to where we’re going. We have allowed the application of the rules to get a little fuzzy.

Take, for example, stop signs and yield signs. At a four-way-stop, the rule is "first to arrive, first to go, tie goes to the right." Clear, fair.

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A yield sign is similar to the stop sign. At a yield sign, the driver needs to be prepared to stop and YIELD to another approaching car.  It’s not a MERGE, where neither vehicle stops.  In a merge, both cars graciously flow forward, together. No stopping.

Maybe some life-lessons for our experience in today’s world can be drawn out of this example of fuzziness.

First, like the stop-sign rule, we can’t allow our personal agendas and selfish urgency to reduce the rules for our convenience. (We are all good at being sticklers for the rules, until they apply to us.)

Second, wouldn’t it be healthier for all of us if we could practice the kind of discipline that was better at yielding and merging in the most productive way.  There’s a time to let the oncoming "traffic" — that is, circumstances, versions of the story — go first, and a time to smoothly join-in for the happiest results.  

It’s important to know when the adult choice to yield or to merge will be most effective.

Join me in reviewing our approach to safety, mutual respect, courtesy and practicality. Let’s take another look at what might have grown fuzzy for us.

Nick Mezacapa, of Rochester, served as the rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, across the street from Mayo Clinic, for nearly 30 years. Send comments on columns to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.

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