Contagious Driving Habits
Have no fear…This diatribe on automotive “Traffic” isn’t going to turn into an amateur thesis on Chaos Theory, or the Butterfly Effect, or even just a gentle reminder that “Zen” is SO very much more than just a flaky concept, or a new-age buzzword. So instead of preaching about something that you probably already know unconsciously anyhow, instead let me tell you about how I learned to love traffic one snowy day…Even though that feeling only lasted for just for a moment, it still taught me an important lesson. One which often comes back to me in stressful times, and which I can only hope to share with you, and possibly recapture more regularly as time moves on…For all of us.
Have you ever been daydreaming about something pleasant, and look up to see someone offer you a quick little smile as they walked by? We all know how contagious a smile can be, but most of us all too easily forget that even just being in the right frame of mind as we go about Life can radically change how events actually unfold for us. Conversely, we’ve all experienced how easily things can derail when we’re preoccupied with negative thoughts, or lost in the worries or stresses of Life, and then feel enraged by the selfish intrusion of other people’s trivial or thoughtless needs and deeds, when we already have more than enough to contend with as it is. Consider this scenario the next time you’re stuck in traffic, and wish you could punt someone into a ditch for their self-absorbed behavior. Remind yourself to realize that road rage is actually a cascading meltdown that stems from many pre-conditions, and someone elses sudden act of arrogance or stupidity is usually nothing more than a trigger point in the grander scheme of things. Unfortunately traffic congestion is a perfect system to gather up such volatile conditions and and string such events together…Often to disastrous effect. So barring some sort of blast from a neutron bomb, or finally moving away to some deserted back road, we all need to learn to apply some ‘presence of mind’ to the situation, for our own safety and sanity. Here’s an example.
During a rare Winter where a genuinely deep snowfall was laying on the streets of Toronto and not instantly turning to over-salted grey slush, I was my sitting in the passenger seat daydreaming about getting my DiamondBack out for an exhilarating snowy ride in the dry, hard packed snow before it started melting away. My girlfriend was also enjoying the benefits of her trusty 4WD (R.I.P. Ruby) while all around us you could almost see the white-knuckles of steering wheel death-grips on people who were just waiting to freeze up with inexperienced terror at their first loss of traction. Coming up to a crowded intersection, she suddenly decided to stop on the near side (and gently counter steered the resulting slight skid to a stop), rather than ride someone’s slow moving bumper on the other side, and partially block any cross-traffic in the process. A considerate Cabbie (a rare breed, I know) suddenly beamed a jagged smile at us as he took advantage of this opening and crossed the intersection while giving her (mi dolce amore) a big grin and thumbs-ups salute for her heads-up driving.
This sort of thing wasn’t unusual, because she’s just that kind of person/driver anyhow, and I often wave respects to other Drivers for her if she’s busy shifting, but the point is that it’s always nice to be recognized by another good driver and to be reminded that we’re indeed all in this mess together. Who knows, with so many Toronto drivers who seem to be incapable of counter-steering, or pumping their brakes properly, or even changing lanes safely, that one event may have encouraged an already good Cabbie to be one less stressed out factor on the road that day. Perhaps that Cabbie might have then helped save some poor soul some grief, or at least the cost of their deductible by not having to push any limits, and tempt the stupidity that surrounds him. The point being, that by seeing more than faceless traffic outside of our windshields, we’re able to not only enjoy the ride more, but also share that pleasure with someone else, and set the stage for better driving experiences down the road.