DriveTips: Reciprocity

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons — Desiderata

Driving home recently, I encountered a traffic stack up that guaranteed a delay getting through the light ahead.  I settled in to wait.  Not so the driver in front of me.  First he edged onto the shoulder as if he were planning to pass the line of cars on the right.  When he realized there wasn’t room, he edged his car across the center line, sighting ahead to gauge his chance of a high-speed pass to the left.  Frustrated there, as well, he whipped the car about and went back the way he had come.

We were in the middle of nowhere and there weren’t many navigation options available.  Curious, I watched in my rear view mirror.  He drove about a mile back and then turned into a neighborhood.  I realized he was trying to drive around the traffic jam and wondered how successful he would be.  Five minutes later, as I drove through the intersection ahead, I had my answer.  Mr. Jackass was stuck in traffic on the cross road waiting for the light.

One of the key rules for driving is the recognition that what goes around comes around, which is a polite way of saying that if you drive like a jackass you will be treated like a jackass.  Tailgate someone and they will slow down.  Try to cut in front of someone and they will speed up.  Weave in and out of traffic and all the openings will close up.  Take shortcuts and you will lose time.

Most of this behavior is unconscious, simple human nature or, in the case of my impatient jackass, the Universe playing with us.  The harder the jackass attacks, the more resistance he meets.  It’s a bit like diving into water.  If you hit it going fast it will slap back with great force.  Ease into the water, however, and it makes way for you.  The best way to move quickly through traffic?  Slow down, see the pattern and flow gently through the openings.

Since driving is a subset of life in general, it should be no surprise that the jackass rule applies off the roadway.  Rudeness begets rudeness.  Early in my career I had a front seat to an office war that proved the adage “Be careful of who you step on up the ladder of success because you’ll see them on the way down.”  The victim in this case had abused her way to the top and, when the crisis came, she saw her victims stand in line to kick her on the way down and out the door.

Life is hard enough as it is even when everything is going your way.  Why ask for extra work by alienating those who could help us or, worse, stand in our way?

And if you’re stuck in traffic, sit back and enjoy the show.  After all, you are surrounded by clowns.

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