How I Failed a Pop Quiz on Default Behavior

You remember those mornings in high school. Teacher finishes taking roll, stands up and writes on the board:


You’ve been listening in class. Sort of. Taking notes. Usually. Doing your homework. Pretty much.

Now  you’ll prove it.

I failed a Pop Quiz on Default Behavior the other day. Badly.

It all starts when I volunteer to prepare a light breakfast for our Men’s Retreat. This is an annual one-day event at our church.

CTLogoCT is on Fulton Road in Santa Rosa, California. This is vital information.

I get everything ready early in the morning. Fruit, croissants, eggs to boil, Li’l Smokies in the crockpot.

We live exactly 6 1/2 minutes from the church. My daughter, Jessica, who is graciously helping, takes the eggs and sausages and leaves a few minutes before me.

I have just left the house when she calls to say the streets are closing due to a “bike race.”

Uh oh.

Our beautiful Sonoma County is a magnet for wine lovers, redwood tree enjoyers, and bikers. You see bikers frequently on our roads and lanes, pedaling along all hunched over, looking quite serious.

Oh, boy.

Oh, boy.

And every fall there is a huge biking event in our fair county called Levi’s GranFondo. It draws 7,500 participants who spend the day riding the county on staggered courses. Streets are closed. Detour signs, no-right-turn signs, and don’t-even-think-about-it signs sprout early on a Saturday morning.           Don'tEvenThink


It passes right by CT. We had forgotten it was THIS Saturday.

Take Marlow to West College, Jessica says.

On the way, I check a couple of other possible streets to Fulton. Closed. I approach West College, which is just being sealed off.

I am puzzled. They can’t keep me from actually getting to CT.

Can they?

When the traffic person begins waving us through – in the wrong direction – I slow and ask, how do I get to Fulton? She seems flustered and tells me to check streets that, it turns out, I’ve already checked. I explain this, somewhat calmly. Just go, she says finally, with an abrupt wave.

I go.

If only.

If only.

I’m on the phone with my husband, who hasn’t yet ventured into this Brave New Morning. Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you, he says. You can’t help me? Shall I ram the barriers? Helicopter in? I HAVE THE REST OF YOUR BREAKFAST!

At one detour I see a huge group of bikers rush past like a spandex nightmare. The traffic person with whom I plead for help assures me that is the main batch and streets will open soon.

I drive on. At one point, I see a biker stopped at a yard sale. Something about it infuriates me. He is looking at tchotchkes while GranFondo and his weird-helmeted friends are seriously fouling up my morning.

It occurs to me that I’m in Dante’s 10th circle of hell without a bicycle.

On the phone with my husband again. You could have cut through the gas station on the corner near the church, he says, having already arrived at CT. This revelation makes me feel like an idiot. It should have occurred to me. When I was over there. 35 minutes ago. And the fact that he is already at the church is Just Wrong.

Gaskets. Blowing.

Gaskets. Blowing.

Frustration is beginning to loosen the little gaskets in my brain.

Ten minutes later I’m back at the gas station, circumventing the detour, and pulling into the CT parking lot.

Inside, my daughter has the serving area prepared, smokies are heated, eggs are boiled, a pot of coffee is ready.

Instead of being grateful and gracious, my 40 minutes of being detoured and waved off and no-right-turned blows the gaskets and I’m teary and furious and, well, it was ridiculous.

What’s wrong with you? A tiny piece of rationality has survived the tempest in my brain. Why didn’t you simply stop at some point and think about what you were doing? The operative word here, by the way, is think.

Fact is, I was reminded of some important truths after this little test:

  • My opinion of the circumstances had no bearing on the fact of the circumstances.
  • Stopping and thinking would have given me time to cool down, consider the options, and communicate calmly.
  • I would then have been able to arrive at my destination having accepted that an event was occurring over which I had no control.

Now I have all that messy repenting and apologizing to do. And I will marinate in my chagrin for the rest of the day.

And by the way:

  • Shouldn’t we be wise enough to recognize how the enemy exploits our default behaviors?
  • Shouldn’t we also be wise enough to modify our default behaviors?*


Time to be better prepared for the next test.

*Not rhetorical questions. I’d love your thoughts. Please click on “Leave a Comment” above.


11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jana Z on October 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Good point, sister Debra. I found myself here… We all need to improve our grades:)


  2. “At one detour I see a huge group of bikers rush past like a spandex nightmare.” This is my favorite line!

    How dare they be out on your personal private roadway! How affronting to make you late for your spiritual helping experience! What ARE those selfish bikers doing out on the road anyway? Can’t they have their foolish race upstate where the heathen marijuana people live?

    I totally get your frustration!

    However ….. dare I throw in a bit is wisdom? No? Too bad. I’m in my superior “I’m more mature than you are” mode and there is no stopping me. You can’t reach through the computer and still my fingers. So there.

    Andy Andrews in “The Noticer Returns” says wisely. “Frustration is the threshold of Mastery”. Think about that. Or not.

    Forget him. He’s probably a biker!



  3. Great line. I will think about it.


  4. Posted by Erin Smith on October 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Oh Debra. And this is why you are loved and trusted:) Yes, we should recognize by now that the enemy does love to revel in our episodes of misfiring synapses… And yes, I much prefer the times when I am mature enough to look at these times with a sense of humor. Not to laugh at you expense but teehee;)


  5. Posted by Donna on October 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I get you Debra; this is one of those moments where that wait time might have allowed you the chance to hear the wisdom offered by that still small voice which if listened to would save us so much grief, worry, wasted time, and frustration. I am attempting this wait action more often with better results that done in my own striving.
    Thank you for being so transparent. It’s nice to know we’re not alone.


  6. Posted by andria sirka on October 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    when my eldest thinks she’s lost a school paper or an important something-or-other,
    i’m always telling her “dont panic…when you panic you cant think, let’s figure it out”….and i proceed to tell her “i can help you if you dont panic…in the past when you freak out and we finally figure it out, have i ever been wrong in my advice about it?”
    as i read your story, i hear the Lord saying the same to me…
    Don’t panic…just think and ask for my help…
    cuz i too can default to panic mode 🙂


  7. Posted by Jeffri Dumas on October 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Sometimes I think of these behaviors as the “thorn in the flesh” Paul talked about. I keep praying for deliverance, and keep getting humbled. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out how to deal with it, there it is again.


  8. It’s like being given some form of the same test again and again until we get the answers right. Let’s keep at it!


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