Lauretta Hannon: What would Mother Theresa do?
August 27, 2013 12:23 AM | 1754 views | 4 4 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Q: What is this new traffic thing where the person in front of you stops about three car lengths behind the car in front of them at a red light? I’ve even seen folks stop way back when they are the car in front of the line. Not all of them are texting — many are not. What’s up?

A: It’s worse than poor depth perception. I suspect it’s a case of not paying attention. And our excessive use of phones — even when not actually using them — is partly to blame. You see our chronic over-engagement with technology has taken our mind away from the here-and-now, and awareness of our surroundings is diminished. Despite the fact that we’re not texting, we are still not “present.”

I was guilty of this during a recent trip to New Orleans. Instead of taking in the view of the city during the taxi ride, I was rushing to post a clever remark about it on Facebook. In the meantime I missed a good bit of the scenery. To my credit, I realized I was being a dolt and turned off my soul-sucking smartphone in mid-post.

Q: I have these boxes of stuff that I took with me to Memphis when I divorced my husband in 1968. Then I took the boxes to Mobile, Atlanta and now Arizona. I am attractive and people ask me out and try to be friendly but I always tell them, “As soon as I unpack my boxes.” What should I do?

A: Sounds to me like you’re doing what you want to do: Staying inside your box. But if you’re willing to grow, consider donating the boxes to a local museum. By now they’ve become time capsules! Dare I say that you are becoming something of a relic yourself. I hope you’ll begin to “unpack” more than those boxes.

Q: People I don’t know well seem inclined to share their life secrets, personal stories and problems with me. I’ve been in more than one awkward situation with this, mostly because I found myself not really caring about what was being disclosed to me. How do I politely, yet effectively tell someone to stop sharing their personal life stories with me?

A: Just tell them in a pleasant, dispassionate way that you’d prefer not to hear their stories. Leave it at that.

However, your question points to a bigger conundrum: To open up or to close one’s self off? I am of two minds about this.

On the one hand, I’m with Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. “When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept,” he says. “We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”

But then there are times when you must go about your business. I imagine that even Mother Theresa and Gandhi had to cut folks off in order to get their work done. Finding that elusive balance is the pesky part.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at
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English Teatime
August 27, 2013
I stop far enough away from the car in front of me so that if the person behind me is not paying attention and they slam into the back of my car, I don't want to hit the one in front of me. That will get me a ticket for following too close (even at a standstill), plus will deploy the airbags, which at the age of my car will cause the insurance to total it.
Rebecca Mc
August 27, 2013
Once, my father-in-law was waiting at a stop sign behind a car. Another car came from behind and hit him and my father-in-law got the ticket for "following too close"! (he was slammed into the car in front of him) I always leave room behind the car in front of me.
Jamie Wyatt
August 27, 2013
Ever since two cars pinned another car between them in my hometown, in a pre-meditated robbery/murder at a stop sign, I leave room to maneuver in front of my car, too.
6 Speed
August 27, 2013
I understand not pulling up on the bumper of a car, but I also am seeing people leave 203 car lengths between them and the car in front of them. You think this does not matter, but in traffic around our metro area & especially the ill-engineered timing of traffic lights, by the time you are the 7th car, you may not make it thru the light, but you might have if the cars had left a safe distance instead of 3 car lengths. If you are 8ft from the car in front of you and you can't steer your car out of that space, then you need to go to driving school.

In fact, if we had driving school like they have in Germany, we would be much better off.
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