The other morning I was sat in my car waiting for a red light at some roadworks to change from red, when a car behind me, the minute that had elapsed clearly being too long for him or her, overtook me and drove through. I followed, 15 seconds later, when the lights had turned green. I wondered what that driver would achieve in that quarter of a minute. There had, thankfully, been no collision with traffic coming the other way. This morning, I was undertaken when stopping for a red light; a different car, but clearly another driver intending to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”

A couple of thoughts come to mind, apart from the obvious danger to these drivers and other road users caused by a failure to heed road signals.

One is how we make use of those pauses in our lives where we are forced, or requested to stop. People sometimes call me to cancel or postpone an appointment, usually with apologies. I am rarely sorry, apart from sometimes not seeing people I enjoy being with, because the time comes as unexpected bonus: a chance to do something I hadn’t planned, an opportunity to catch up on something; and even, rarely, but wonderfully, an invitation to do nothing at all, maybe just to sit and stare at the sea.

Another is about what we do when we are active. At what cost to others do we fill those fifteen seconds we gain by jumping a light, the few seconds gained by speeding along the hill outside my home only to be forced to stop when the road is blocked by oncoming traffic. If we manage with all our speed and dashing (blue light responders excepted) what do we do with that time gained? Do we manage to increase the sum of human happiness (or even our own) or is it just about our own sense of entitlement, to the road, to the first place in the queue, to life?

I’m not pretending to be the most patient person on earth. I’m not, although I am, I’m glad to say, better than I was. I’m just reflecting. If we really do feel we have to fill every minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, what are we running towards and what happens when we get there?


And if we’re always running, might we not miss something of the glories of the journey?

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