Since switching jobs, I’ve gone from an empty morning commute and moderately busy evening commute to a stop-and-go hell. As such, I’ve had to change my driving habits.
Namely, I’ve become an obsessively courteous driver. This didn’t come easy to me, because the last time I had to drive daily in a city, I did it in a Town Car—a body-on-frame tank that meant I won every traffic encounter by default unless the other car was a taxi driver, in which case, they would gleefully try and clip me, because taxi drivers hate other taxis. Now I’m doing it in my Jag, a car with paint so delicate that looking at it funny makes it shatter into a million pieces.
Over the past few months, I’ve made the following observations:
1) Being nice to semis is the best, because they thank you by flashing their hazards. I want to start doing this too, but my hazard light button is the farthest button in my car, and I only seem to reliably hit it when I’m trying to hit the automatic climate control button.
2) Life is more enjoyable when you get into the lane you need to be in to exit early. Sure, you could stay in the passing lane and cut over at the last second, relying on someone else’s generosity or braking ability to let you in, and maybe you’ll end up ten or so cars ahead of where you’d be otherwise, but if you move over early, then you can just chill out and relax.
3) While it’s great to floor your car at a light and to demonstrate your superiority over a middle aged lady in a Camry (I’ll admit that I have this habit of unprovoked passing of people with Trump bumperstickers, just so I can assert dominance), it pales in comparison to the smug superiority that comes from being courteous to other drivers. I cannot emphasize enough how great this feeling of smug superiority is. It’s telling the other driver that you are the arbiter of this lane, and that you have deemed them worthy to enter it. You did them a solid, they owe you, you’re practically BFFs. If they were a wookie, they’d now have to devote the rest of their lives to helping you smuggle drugs and incestuous siblings across the galaxy. More importantly, as my mother instructed me as a child, manners are a luxury. When you let a car in, you’re announcing to all of trafficdom that the added commute time of one extra car is not going to result in you getting fired. That guy in the BMW who’s up on the bumper of that Honda? That pleb’s time is so precious that his place in traffic is the only thing standing between him, his job, and utter destitution.
4) If you’re trying to exit from a side street on to a crowded road, make eye contact with the driver immediately to your left. Chances are they will wave you in.
5) From the commanding ride height of your car, you can certainly see over the roofline of mine—which is about 4' from the pavement—so you know very well that tailgating me is stupid.
6) In fact, not only does it not magically speed up the cars in front of me, but it actually makes me increase my following distance because 1) I am now braking for the two of us in the event of a sudden stop, and, 2) fuck you.
7) When you’re at a zipper merge, if you leave enough space between you and the car in front of you for the car next to you, the car behind them will do the same for you 9/10 times,* because you’re not activating their fight response. If you’re riding on the bump of the car in front of you and only cede at the last moment, the person next to you will almost certainly do the same.
*For the other 1/10 times, hold your line and ride them onto the shoulder. They’re either give up or floor it up the shoulder in a hissy fit, either way, you win.
8) In moderate to heavy traffic without lights and a siren, there is nothing you can do to make your commute measurably shorter. Just accept it and chill the fuck out, unless you’re secretly Billy Mumy.
In which case, feel free to point at each of the other 300 cars on the road and send them off into a cornfield.