The other day, driving in traffic on the freeway, I got stuck behind an Early Braker. Fuck, I hate those people. You know the ones. They brake like five car lengths behind the car in front of them. This confuses the hell out of the people behind them because in heavy traffic you’re planning moves twenty yards ahead looking through the windshield of the car in front of you. When you’re not seeing brake lights in front of the car in front of you, you think everything’s fine, but then the Early Braker inexplicably brakes, jarring you back onto your toes. Worse yet, early braking allows other people into your lane because of that huge gap.

Of course, what made things even worse was that the Early Braker was also a Late Mover. A Late Mover is the kind of driver who doesn’t move until the car in front of him/her has moved five car lengths ahead. This also allows for cars in other lanes to swoop in. So, basically, with Early Braking and Late Moving, I basically didn’t move for half an hour. Sure, we idled forward a good 2 feet, but that doesn’t count.

Now, I appreciate that everyone thinks they’re a good driver and I appreciate that 90% of those people are incorrect, but I fall in the top 10% definitely. See, I understand the dynamics of the road. I understand the intimate relationship a driver must have with the car in front of him/her and with the car behind. It boils down to trust. Do you trust the driver in front of you not to brake too early and do you trust the driver behind you not to brake too late. More importantly, if you can’t trust those drivers are you skilled enough to compensate for their shortcomings? I can and that’s why I rock as a driver. I can be in the minds of everyone around me at the same time, which allows me to spot dumbass driving and Road Rage flare-ups, thereby avoiding accidents through minor adjustments in car positioning.

Sure, I still get pissed off once in a while and fantasize about bashing that SL 500 into the median, dragging its wreckage of corrugated metal and broken glass across the center divider a good quarter mile, but those moments are few and far between. In fact, I think I am approaching Zen, if there is a Zen for heavy traffic. I’ve outgrown the impulse to constantly lane change in an attempt to shave off a minute from my hour commute. Instead, I just merge into the lane that I know I’ll need to be in twenty miles down the road and just queue. I realize, I’m not a unique snowflake. I’m the all seeing, all dancing crap of the universe. I’m part of a team. When the team wins, I win. So I crawl along with the rest of them.

What impresses me (and what I’m still very far from becoming) are the Zen Masters of driving in heavy traffic. These are the guys who realize that traffic is not something to fight or overcome. Traffic is the world telling us to slow down and enjoy the brotherhood of our fellow man in what’s left of our already short lives. The Zen Masters never brake. They just let their car idle along the freeway. Sure, I hate being behind them just as much as the next guy, but without them, no one would ever be able to change lanes in heavy traffic without pulling some kind of dick move.

There is one upside to heavy traffic on the freeway. It forces you to conform. Yes, occasionally, you’ll get a Fast and the Furious wannabe stirring the pot, but traffic always gets them in the end. When you resign yourself to traffic and let it cradle you in its warm, secure embrace, you slowly learn to appreciate the languid pace. Furthermore, being a good driver in heavy traffic has different criteria and is less difficult to achieve, whereas most people cannot handle being a good driver on side streets. In heavy traffic, to be a good driver, you just go with the flow. Brake and accelerate when you should. Let people into your lane at natural intervals. Merge into other lanes safely. Courtesy wave. Courtesy wave. It’s not that hard, but even if you fuck it up, people can still compensate for you. Besides, it’s not like your shitty driving is really slowing us down much.

But on side streets, shitty drivers abound! And their lack of driving ability seriously impacts your commute. If you’re going to drive the side streets, pay fucking attention to the lights, especially if you’re leading everyone. If you’re not Johnny-on-the-Spot when that light turns green, your late move will fuck over the guy ten cars back. Hitting a light adds like another five minutes to the drive. It’s fucking bullshit! So maximize the lights.

See, traffic is really just a microcosm of society at its worst and driving in traffic is like playing No Limit Texas Hold’em. Poker is all about lying in wait to make your move, just like switching lanes in heavy traffic. In poker, when you have a good hand or you’re bluffing, sometimes you give that away with what’s called a “tell.” Your face twitches. You breathe heavier. Whatever. Same with driving. If you use your blinker in heavy traffic, ain’t no way anyone’s gonna let you into their lane, because that’s a tell. You’ll have to wait until a Mack truck comes along that’s too slow to block you out. Same thing goes for looking over the shoulder or excessively checking the sideview mirror. That’s like checking your cards over and over again. That’s weak play that tells other players you’re not sure how good your hand is. No. You must always know the strength of your hand and the length of your car. You take a peek into your sideview mirror. In that instant, if your car can physically fit in the gap you see, YOU GO FOR IT!

When I pull that kind of dick lane change and the guy behind me has to come to a screeching halt, I like to yell into the rearview mirror, “BOOM! I’m here now, bitch! Deal with it!”

In poker, you also have “false tells.” So let’s say you’re sitting on a royal flush but you want to make it seem like you’re bluffing, you go ahead and raise egregiously or whatever. Same with driving. Let’s say traffic is light and flowing but the guy in front of you in the fast lane won’t go above 65. You give him a false tell to make him speed up. You signal like you’re gonna change lanes. He’ll instinctively speed up because he doesn’t want to give you the satisfaction of passing him and thinking he’s slow. When he guns it, you cut your blinker and stay in the lane. That’s a false tell in action.

I know it may seem ridiculous to take all of these facets of driving into consideration just to get from point A to point B, but when people talk about “bad drivers” this is what it’s all about. Most people have the motor skills to operate a car, but not the mental faculty for the driving mind game. And that prevents those people from negotiating the road with other people effectively and safely. That’s why I hope those people die.