Zen Driver

Blue Car at a Red Light near some Green GrassYou’re sitting in your car at a red light. In the lane next to you is a driver in another car.

Question: Does it matter how he got there?

If you’re the typical and average obliviot, the answer is no. You’re too busy yapping on your cell phone, texting, fiddling with the radio, playing with your cigarette lighter, or daydreaming. To you, the guy is just another driver. When the light turns green, it takes a couple of seconds to pierce your consciousness, then you slowly accelerate on your way. Meanwhile, the guy next to you punched it like a drag racer when the light turned green, easily got in front of you, and now you’re eating his dust and slowing to a stop as he makes the next turn.

Whoa. What just happened?

Scenario: You’re on a one-way street with two lanes and sitting at a red light. There are two possibilities for how that car got next to you. Either he was always in that lane or he was originally in your lane, saw you at the red light, saw the open lane, and made the switcharoo.

What’s the difference?

To the obliviot driver, the answer is none.

But what about the driver with 360 degrees of zen awareness? To him, there’s a big difference. You see, he knows that if the other driver was originally in his lane, then the odds are high that he’ll want to be back. In other words, that other guy wants the same lane but is changing just because the other lane is open. And, the chances are high that he’ll want to be back. In fact, he may even want to make that turn one block hence, forcing you to eat his ass.

I know. That’s not very nice of him but most drivers can’t resist being in that #1 spot.

Television commercials propagate this. They always show their wares flying around like little lightning bolts, always in motion, and usually never another car in sight. They somehow seem to know that showing their product on the 405 with 10-miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic in every direction and a top speed of 1 mph isn’t quite as exciting.

So yeah, to a zen driver like me, it makes a difference how that driver got there. Because I don’t want to have to ride my brakes just because another asshole wanted to save one-half of a second on his drive.

While I’m sitting at that red light I know exactly what that other guy may be up to, since I watched him originally approach in my lane then switch to the other lane. I watched him in my mirrors. I know where he was and I can guess what he might be up to.

Here’s the fun part. I used to drive a typical four-cylinder piece of shit and I’d punch it and try to block that asshole, but he’d easily out-power me and take “my” space. I always imagined he was cackling with glee, too.

Now, though, I am the captain of an American-made vessel with a whopping eight-cylinders. When I lay that pedal on the floor, it’s a very rare vehicle indeed that can still get ahead of me. I don’t drive the fastest thing on the road but 99% of the time, it is enough. And those are the moments that make life worth living.

Since I’m passive-aggressive, I keep it subtle. I’m on to his game but he isn’t necessarily aware of mine. So I ease on that sucker just enough to block him out. The fun part is keeping it even with his rear bumper. He can taste it but just can’t get the room to make his move.

Sometimes they’ll catch on and put the pedal to the metal and get a short lead. I respond in kind, more than keeping my distance and edging them out. That’s when they “know.” They realize that they aren’t just dealing with an average sucker obliviot. Then, that fantastical moment when the resign themselves to their fate, ease off the gas, and start to drift back. A car-length away, they finally make their move and get behind me. Then they make their little turn.

Splash another bogey! Deep six, yo, motherfucka.

Tom’s Law #42
The odds of a driver (who is making a turn within the next block) changing to the empty lane are exponentially proportional to the number of cars in his lane.

If the driver wants to turn right within a block and the right lane is empty there’s almost a 100% chance the driver won’t change lanes. (It’s never 100% because at least .44% of drivers are legally insane.)

With just one car in the way, that percentage drops to 90%. In other words, 10% of drivers will try make that aggressive maneuver and cut the other driver off to make their turn.

With just two cars ahead, that percentage jumps to 30%. By the time there are seven cars or more in the same lane, there is statistically not a driver in the world, even the most timid, that can resist that open lane. It’s just human nature. It’s almost like they say, “I know I’m going to miss my lane, but that lane is open. How often am I going to get a chance like this?”

Practice your zen, my friends. Stay thirsty.

8 responses

  1. Not sure where “zen” comes into this…I have practiced zazen for some years and it’s a PIMA. Anyhoo, I’m fairly hypervigilant but need to be, driving across 3 counties of hoosiers (and I don’t mean people from IN). It means I’m freaked out all the time. I *hate* to drive! I consider it the opposite of zen but there’s me.


    1. I drive with 360 degree of zen and total awareness. How else would I know if the person in the car next to me is an asshole or not?

      See? A zen attitude and approach when driving is really important.


  2. If I didn’t drive a 4-cylinder gutless wonder, I would so totally do this, too. My stepfather was one of those assholes who would get in the empty lane and then cut you off to make his turn.


    1. Sometimes I lament my petrol bill, but it’s all worth it for moments like this. I scoff at your 4-cyl gutlessness! Scoff!

      Hopefully this sort of thing is not hereditary. Stay on the side of light and justice with me! There’s plenty of room in this lane for all!


  3. It’s been said I drive like an eighteen-year-old Italian boy trying out for the FIA GT. I’m so zen driving I’m practically in the other car whispering helpful suggestions like, “You’d get there faster if you parked this thing and walked.”

    You, me, road trip. I drive. 🙂


    1. Somehow I knew you’d be a kindred spirit on this with me. 🙂


      1. Yeah, yeah…kindred spirits. I still drive. 🙂


  4. Reblogged this on Shouts from the Abyss and commented:

    I must like me. When I read the opening line I literally laughed out loud. Why don’t I get paid to spew? Seriously?! I dub this my Self Reblog of the Week. (Don’t watch.)


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