Get out of my way, idiot! I’m trying to get to church!

July 15, 2007 | Daily Spirituality | 17 comments

My husband and I went to Vigil Mass yesterday, and we were going to be on time. We always seem to slide into the pew a matter of seconds before the entrance hymn beings. This time was going to be different: we would arrive a full ten minutes early for peaceful, prayerful reflection to make sure we were properly disposed for the Mass.

And we almost made it. We had exited the highway and were almost in sight of the church when we heard the ominous ding!ding!ding! of the railroad gates. The speed limit on this particular track is evidently something like two miles per hour, so when you hear that noise you can pretty much forget about being wherever you were going on time.

But then we realized we were in luck! The train was actually on the tracks across the street, and we just needed to turn right. We were in a right turn only lane so this should be no problem.

It was to our great frustration that we realized that the car in front was intending to go straight (illegally) and therefore had to wait for the train to pass, even though he was in the right turn only lane.

I was just about to start having some really sinful thoughts when something distracted me.

HOOOOONK! HONK! HONK-HONK-HONK! HOOOOOOOOOOOONK!

The guy in the silver BMW M3 behind him was just laying on the horn. It was almost constant. I’m surprised he didn’t wear his horn out. And he didn’t stop. As the long train creeped by (it took at least a full five minutes, probably more), and the cars piled up behind us to wait to turn right, the honking continued. It got to the point that a couple people stepped out of there cars to see what was going on. The lady driving the car next to us looked over at us with an uncomfortable shrug.

Somewhere into the fourth straight minute of honking my husband and I joked, “Maybe he’s really in a hurry to get to Mass!” and had a good laugh at our sparkling wit.

Finally, a couple minutes later, the train passed and the gates lifted. The car in front went on its way, and the BMW whisked quickly to the right…towards our church.

“Surely not…” we said.

Then another right. The building was now in sight. And, sure enough, the BMW hooked a left and squealed into the church parking lot. Being the nosy, gossipy people we are, my husband and I were determined to follow the car to see who the driver was and almost did some rude honking of our own when people got in our way. (“Get out of the way, fool! We’re trying to see who the guy was who was honking on his way to Mass so that we can feel smugly superior to him! MOVE!”)

He parked his car in the last row out, with a grass curb on one side and plenty of empty parking spaces on the other, undoubtedly to ensure that nobody come within 20 feet of the flawless paint job. Despite his hurry he did take the time to re-park it a few times to make sure it was as close to the grass as possible. (It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we resisted parking our car right next his, way over on his side of the lane).

Throughout the entire Mass I had to refrain from erupting into giggles at the whole thing. I kept thinking of the various things he might have been saying as he wore out the horn in his car: “Get out of my way, idiot, I’m trying to get to church!”, or “If you don’t move so I can go receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ I’m going to kick your a–!”

I get to have a great chuckle at this fellow parishioner’s expense only because I am so much like him. Though I can honestly say I would never do what he did, it’s not because I’m so much holier — it’s only because I’m a non-confrontational wussy. But believe me, if the din of the constant honking had distracted me, I would not exactly have remembered to see Christ in the person who was in the right turn only lane and not turning right.

The whole thing was a good reminder for me. Actually hearing the disconcerting ugliness of the blaring horn was so unpleasant…yet not all that different from what goes on in my head when I’m on my way to church. In our quest to be early (or at least on time) for Mass lately, I often find myself snapping at the kids or my husband, thinking nasty thoughts about other slowpoke drivers who only go ten miles over the speed limit, and blaming lights and stop signs and traffic when I don’t arrive exactly when I wanted to. I often walk into the house of God grousing, rushing, and generally feeling sorry for myself. And even if I refrain from communicating with my car’s horn, how many times have I thought something like, “Get out of my way, idiot! I’m trying to get to Mass!” — my way may not be as noisy, but it’s horribly unpleasant nonetheless.

As I thought about how rude and un-Christian my fellow parishioner in the BMW was, I realized that I’m no better. Sometimes we all let our desire to control everything, to have things play out exactly according to our plans, allow us to completely forget what it’s all about.

17 Comments

  1. newhousenewjob

    Oooh, I can so identify with that! Last week, New Man and I arrived at church with about five minutes to spare, only to find (having turned into the car park) that the car park was closed because there was some event going on at the school next-door, and some officious guy was making people reverse back onto the main road to go and park in nearby streets. I mildly pointed out to him that it would have been more prudent to have a sign OUTSIDE the car park saying it was closed so that people wouldn’t be blocking the road, but instead of apologising or explaining, he tried to pick a fight with me (fortunately, I managed not to retaliate, but boy, was I fuming!).

    By the time we got into the church, about 10 seconds before Mass started, I was totally in the wrong frame of mind for Mass. Mind you, someone letting off steam for me by hooting their horn for five minutes at this guy might have made me feel better… :¬}

  2. Anonymous

    My husband and I “excuse” it all with the following statement: We’re on a mission from God!

    Just kidding! While we do say that in the car on the way to church, we have never honked our way into the parking lot, that’s for sure!

    — Bridget

  3. Anonymous

    i had a run-in with a short tempered fellow parishoner once…as i sat in my car reading the bulletin after mass, waiting for my altar server to come out, i absentmindedly had my foot on the brake…well this woman bangs on my window, i turn and smile, roll down the window and innocently chirp “HI!” she bellows, “Are you leaving or what? You’ve been sitting here for at least 10 minutes, I’m waiting for your parking space!!” i nearly choked! In the middle of this chaotic parking lot she stopped her car and got out to ask me this!!! When i told her i was waiting for my son she yelled at me, “Well take your foot off your brake!” she’s an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to boot!
    cordelia

  4. John Seymour

    LOL,

    A couple observations:

    Our Deacon and others have ruefully observed that there are no Christians in the parking lot;

    re Cordelia’s comment, when my wife and I agreed to be extraordinary ministers of communion, we were advised to be aware that everyone would be watching us – we are very “public figures” in one sense. I have been surprised to have people I only vaguely recognize address me familiarly. But I don’t honk at people in the parking lot (get there early enough and you have your pick of spots :)).

  5. Amber

    Oh, this hits home (unfortunately!) Thankfully I’m nowhere near this bad, but my husband did remark recently that the only time now that I drive at all agressively is when I am driving to church. *sigh* Now that he pointed that out though I am trying to be much more mindful of how I am driving! 🙂

  6. P

    Of course, the person illegally attempting to go straight *could* have just made the legal turn, instead of holding up the entire flow of traffic for his convenience.

    So I totally would have honked, without the slightest feeling of guilt. Of course, if after the first “beep, beep” the guy didn’t get it, I would have just shrugged and said, “such is life, I guess I’m gonna be late for Mass.”

  7. Anonymous

    Oh my goodness! I really did laugh out loud reading this (a very rare occurance), not because I don’t want to sit on my horn sometimes but mostly because, I, too, am a non-confrontational wussy. I do try to get the kids to say a quick prayer for me when I get ‘touchy’ in the car and tell them that when I get angry like this, it is, indeed, a sin and therefore not to copy their mama 🙂
    Suzanne

  8. Mrs. June Fuentes

    This is a hilarious post! I bet many can relate.

    Many blessings…

  9. Sarah L.

    Someone in my Bible study remarked that Satan tries his best to lead us astray on Sunday mornings. We are snapping at our children and husbands, barking orders, running out the door late, and then acting nasty in the parking lot at church. Don’t let Satan win! We’ve got to try extra hard to get to Mass on time and properly disposed to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Also, what are our children learning about going to Mass? That it makes
    mommy short-tempered? No, we must show them our joy!

  10. Anonymous

    Relax!
    Getting to church during the opening hymn would be a problem if you were attending a non-Catholic service. However, everyone knows that you aren’t late to a Catholic mass until the Processional is over.
    You think I’m joking, but it’s true. My sister who changed religions when she got married, had to be trained by her husband that arriving during the first hymn is LATE.
    I admit there may be some dispute in this area, as my husband considers us late if we are only five minutes early.
    But he’s crazy.

    Whimsy

  11. beez

    Being charitable in the car is my biggest problem.

    It’s so easy to be nice and patient when the woman right in front of you at the Kroger didn’t activate her debit card so she needs to dig through her purse, first for another card, then for her checkbook and then for a pen. She’s a person, she’s a little frazzled and probably a tad embarrassed.

    However, when it’s an SUV with “HT4MAMA” on the license plate, it’s so easy to get mad. It’s like you forget there is a person behind the wheel.

  12. Anonymous

    In the 21 years of raising 3 children, I observed that one of the nastiest places to be was the church parking lot during CCD pickup/dropoff. Public school lots have been notoriously mean as well, but I was bothered far more by that in the church lot.

  13. Courageous Grace

    I always try to just hum to myself “Sunday driving, Sunday driving” as it seems the worst drivers crawl out of the woodworks on Sunday mornings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQeIenvyfos

    As for getting to church during the opening hymn…you’d be late at my parish…our rector gives announcements between the organ prelude and the processional 🙂

  14. Elizabeth

    Hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Michelle

    Great post! And Sarah I. your comment really hit home. I really needed to *hear* that right now.

  16. Michael McCormick

    Many years ago when I was a poor college student (well not really poor — just thought beer was more important than auto maintenance) my car broke down at a red light late at night on my way home from my cooking job. A BMW with an older man pulled up behind me and when the light turned green he started in on the horn. The light turned red and green again with him laying on that horn the whole time.
    Finally I got mad, got out of my car went back there and knocked on his window. He rolled it down and I asked (I got this idea either from a movie or a comic I don’t remember now) “Would you like to trade places?”
    He looked at me kind of confused so I said, dripping with sarcasm “Can I sit back here and honk the horn while you try and start my car?”
    He immediately started apologizing, got out and helped me push my car to the side, dressed in a suit he spent 45 minutes trying to help me get it started and then gave me a ride to a phone and stayed till he knew I had someone coming.
    I don’t know if this story adds to the conversation but this reminded me of that incident.
    Michael

  17. Kristen Laurence

    So true, so true. What a great story!

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