Be Good In Traffic
by Bing Futch
Be Good In Traffic
by Bing Futch
Generally speaking, I like to drive; it’s one of the few things that I’m seriously good at. Parking, parallel or otherwise, is no problem. Merging, turning, accelerating, braking, avoiding, squeezing through tight spaces, and moving with the rhythm of traffic are second nature, along with keeping my eyes moving and assessing the zones that circle the vehicle for threats and opportunities. Some people overreact to situations, such as sudden brake lights, obstacles, loud noises, and the aggressive driving of others, but I’ve calmly watched as folks in the lane next to me have spun 360 degrees and off the road because I was aware of their every move and knew their trajectory, speed, and intention. This all comes natural, so it doesn’t stress me to drive.
When I do “real” work, it tends to be driving. Box trucks, airport, and rent-a-car shuttles, that sort of thing. Right now, I’m delivering construction equipment. With an average of 1,000 miles tallied up every week, I see my fair share of sick and twisted driving. The more you’re on the road, the greater the probability that you’ll see stupid shit and have to swerve, brake, or reverse to avoid even stupider shit. I could write a book, a thick one, but you’d probably beat me to it.
There are some crazy-ass people out there on the roads. Some punk asses, too. And quite a few who couldn’t find their asses with MapQuest and GPS. All I have to say is: be nice.
Let people into traffic if they look like they want to get in. It won’t kill you to have one more car in front of you. On the same note, what’s the point of swooping in front of me when there’s another vehicle up ahead? It’s not like you can drive over them, right? The laws of karma work on the road too — if you let someone into traffic, someone will certainly let you in at some point as well. If everyone drove a little nicer, we’d all be less stressed and would even burn less gas because relaxed drivers go slower and avoid jackrabbit surges of the accelerator, which are supremely wasteful. Leaving car space wide open does encourage others to slip into that golden, cherished spot in front of you. But if everyone hung back a ways, we wouldn’t have to react so strongly when brake lights flash on in front of us, and instead of the “accordion” effect, that brutal stop and go and stop that makes traffic jams suck so bad, we’d at least have constant speed that would reduce stress, once again. Try it! Just hang back from the person in front of you in traffic and try to avoid coming to a full stop. If someone cuts into your lane, then fall back and maintain that space. Pretty soon, the people behind you will fall back as well, because you’re continuously moving. It’s like: pass it on.
Today, as a green light wasn’t getting any greener, I noticed that the lead car in my lane, closest to the curb, was stalled out and a little old brown-skinned guy hopped out and threw up his hands. The guy in between us was looking at me to back up. In the rear view mirror I could see seven or eight cars all with blinkers on, trying to switch lanes. Looking back at him, I also threw up my hands. He shook his head in disgust and peeked out his window, waiting for the left lane to clear before dashing out and away.
I had already made up my mind to help the guy push his car out of the road, so I cut on the cargo van’s hazard lights, looked carefully back at traffic, opened my door, leaped out, and walked up to his car. He was about to pop the hood when I said, “I’ll push, go ahead and steer.”
He nodded quickly as I moved to the back. With a slight downwards slope to the right, it would be a cinch to get the Mazda minivan moved to the side street. After a couple of false starts (he put his foot on the brake once, which felt really great to my shoulder and face as they met the dusty rear window), we got it to the curb, and I sprinted back to my idling van, hopped inside, and pulled around in front of him. I asked him if he needed to call someone. He sort of looked at me as he opened the hood, and I asked again. Stammering a bit, he shook his head.
“Uhh,” he began, trying to find the words. I made phone motions with my hands, fingers tapping imaginary buttons.
“Do you need to use a phone?” The words “no” and “English” came out of him as he smiled faintly and shrugged.
“Habla Espanol?” I offered.
“No, no,” he said. “Iranian.”
My only thought at that point was “language barrier: check.” Next move: see if the problem could be fixed. Perhaps he saw me glance at the car questioningly because he said, “No good,” and then made a twisting gesture. The starter, perhaps.
“Go ahead,” he said. Maybe I looked like an auto mechanic with my work shirt and soiled jeans; I had come to his rescue after all. So I looked at the engine, tugged on a wire, then went around to the inside of the van, turned the ignition, and sent the engine rip roaring to life.
The look on his face was almost comical, and he sort of did a double-take before turning to me with a big smile and shaking my hand. “Oh ho!” he said. I knew what that meant; it was the universal exclamation for “I am happily relieved.”
“You’re okay now, have a good day,” I said, bowing to him as he smiled and went to lower the hood. Climbing back into the van, I noted that my next delivery was right down the street. Looking back in the rearview mirror, I waited for him to make a move so that I could safely pull away from the curb, and that’s when I noticed that he was gone.
Gone. No retreating white SUV, no blur of lines passing me. The light was red and traffic was flowing heavily. There was no way that he made a three-point turn that quickly and then skooched onto the main road. Impossible.
Or was it?
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