After a pause Jon continues:

 

“Then, I won at road rage a second time.”

 

I’m at the market shopping for the family Friday night, shabbat dinner.

 

I respond into my headset:

 

“A second road rage story? I’m not certain I have space in my psyche for a second road rage story.”

 

“This one is good.”

 

“So you’re admitting the last one wasn’t?”

 

Jonathan and I are fast with retorts.

 

Jewish wit. Quick, clever. Funny.

 

We’ve known each other for more than four decades.

 

We love chatting on the phone. Making each other laugh.

 

“It’s so good. Listen. I’m on Broadway going uptown, and this fucking taxi stops to pick up a fare in the middle of the center and right lane. Blocks traffic for everyone. He should have pulled over, but not this guy. He is such an asshole. He blocks all traffic. So I lay on my horn for as long as he is stopped. Fucking guy.”

 

“You think that helped?”

 

“He knew he was wrong, I was just letting the son of a bitch know what he was doing wasn’t acceptable.”

 

The hallmark of most island culture is kindness. In Manhattan, not so much. 

 

He continues:

 

“The thing about road rage is you’ve got only one parry at the other person. There’s only one moment, maybe three seconds tops, to engage with them. You get one shot.”

 

“Jon, are you telling me these stories for some type of absolution? Cause I’m not certain I can do that.”

 

There’s a momentary pause — a fumble in the conversation. Maybe I sounded a little too filled with judgment.

 

I continue keeping it light:

 

“But I do know a guy, offers absolution. At a discount. Like new. Slightly used.”

 

“Yeah, fell-off-a-truck absolution. I don’t need that… I’d need new stuff.

 

Jon continues:

 

“So, anyway, I was saying, it’s like an Olympic level sport. A good cage match.”

 

“I think, what’s his name? Howard? Cosell covered it in the ‘76 Olympics.”

 

Jonathan launches into a pretty good impression of Cosell:

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the wide world of sports. OJ Simpson now hunts a murderer and Bruce Jenner is gorgeous.”

 

He pauses, and I pick up as the beloved sportscaster of our childhood:

 

”Today we are covering the sport known simply as Road Rage. Road Rage. A sport so dangerous it has been banned multiple times in multiple cities.”

 

Jon tells me what he said in his less than three-second exchange after easing off the horn.

 

The words he used.

 

And one word in particular.

 

That word.

 

The one that white people have been asked not to say.

 

The N word.

 

I say, “I don’t think that’s right.”

 

The line is silent as I grab two bunches of bananas.

 

I allow the quiet to speak for me for a few seconds. Neither of us talk. I move on and ask, upbeat, “You know how I play road rage?”

 

I move on because rubbing someone’s nose in their mistake leads to people avoiding you, not them growing up. Moral indignation might feel good, but it doesn’t convert trolls into princes.

 

“Sure,” he says, a bit deflated, “Tell me, kind sir, how do you play road rage?”

 

I adjust my headset and wonder for a moment at the magic of talking to a guy in New York while buying bananas from Ecuador in a market slightly north of the 45th parallel.

 

“I don’t.”

 

“You don’t what?”

 

“I don’t play. Road rage.”

 

“You’re missing out.”

 

As I turn from the produce aisle, I respond with something I’ve been thinking for years, but never put into words until then.

 

“I don’t think so. I don’t think I’m missing out. I might lose out on the cathartic release of getting angry, but I’ve made it so I don’t get so annoyed too often, so I don’t need the cathartic release in the first place.”

 

Pause.

 

Jon sizes up the option I’ve offered and says:

 

“I’m sticking with my horse.”

 

“You willingly, consciously, are going to choose to get angry?”

 

“It’s my horse.”

 

I laugh.

 

“I love you. Your horse, not so much.”

 

“And I love you, have a good sabbath.”

 

“You too, dear rabbi. You too.”

 

An abundance of faith is the antidote for our crippling despair. 

An indwelling of hopefulness is the helpful cure for our debilitating cynicism. 

A loving spirit is the corrective response to the anger and indifference we encounter daily in life.

***

Faith – faith that no matter how grey the skies, the sun still shines. Faith that no matter how horrible the situation looks, it is not permanent. None of it is.

Hopefulness – hope that the future generations will continue to bend the arc toward justice. Hope that one day nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Hope that love will win out.

A loving spirit – a loving spirit of generosity, empathy, and kindness will soothe our aches. A loving spirit can make us feel connected, despite how it seems. 

Faith.

Hope. 

Love.

***

Of course you and I are tired, my friend.

The cognitive load of being scared is real.

Fear tires us.

All of us.

Let us not waste the precious energy we have picking fights – even if American Honda Motor Corporation has promised us a loaner car.

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Empathy

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