Mid-morning departure, heading north out of Selma, traffic was light. This had all the makings of a stress-free road trip.

Boy, was I wrong. A traffic collision in Madera, combined with highway construction, had created the perfect storm. Freeway 99 was clogged with a miles-long traffic standstill.

For the record, traffic is my biggest annoyance. I want to get where I’m going, and get there with the least amount of hassle.

So, yes, I was grumpy. Not as grumpy as in the past, because this was not a deadline situation, and I am mellowing with age. But still, it stalled us and I don’t relish being stalled.

We decided stop for lunch to wait out the jam, then got back on the freeway and endured a few more patches of highway construction around Modesto and Stockton. Finally we arrived at our destination, a four-hour drive stretched to six.

That gave me plenty of time to ponder my impatience. My irritation. My Geezer grumpiness.

And with that musing, I pondered why we humans — more specifically, we Americans — can get so darned ticked off about everything.

When did we become so impatient? So angry? So demanding?  

Angry at traffic jams. Angry at our City leaders. Angry because our kids can’t attend school. Angry because they go back, but only for two days. 

Angry because we have to wear a mask or angry because our neighbor won’t wear one. Angry at the old people on in front of us at the checkout who are counting pennies and dimes to pay for their milk and cookies, wondering why they don’t just swipe plastic like the rest of us.

The reasons for our displeasure are the usual social, cultural, even political issues. But much of our irritation is merely rooted in impatience - at slowness, at inconvenience, at those who act and believe differently from us.

Since I am a guilty party, I have begun to take notice of impatience in all of its forms. 

Those of us over 50 can remember a time when seeking knowledge and information required a trip to a library to find an encyclopedia or other reference book. And if we needed a telephone number or address, we would grab the phone book and search its pages.

Today, everything we need to know is at our fingertips — literally, on our phones and tablets. And yet we get impatient if it takes more than a couple of seconds for our device to find what we need.

We used to pay our bills using a check in a stamped envelope through the post office. Now we do it electronically, and if it takes more than 30 seconds to complete the process, we become irritated. 

My six-year-old grandson has started timing our car rides. “How many minutes, Grandpa?” he asks when I drive him back to Fresno.

His mother did the same when she was his age. On trips to SoCal to visit relatives, by the time we hit Visalia she’d start asking, “Are we in Bakersfield yet?” (Somehow, she had figured out that Bakersfield was halfway to Grandma’s house.)

Seeing impatience in children has made me a bit more aware of my own failings. Which is all part of the human growth cycle, even for those of us old retired folks. And seeing myself in my offspring, in some weird way, helps me deal with grandparenting issues.

So the next time Joaquin asks “How many minutes, Grandpa?” I have the answer:  “Pipe down, kid. We’re almost to Bakersfield.” 

Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. “Selma Stories” runs regularly in The Enterprise.

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