Thursday, June 14, 2012

Traffic Tetris

I drive too fast, and not very well, according to those who know me.  It's likely true, at least the "fast" part but I've been blessed by the gods with very few speeding tickets (knock wood), although I've been stopped for speeding and walked away with a seatbelt citation instead (see Double Standards).  I also drive a sizeable vehicle, not some little hard-to-see and hard-to-see-out-of compact car, and have a decent commute back and forth to my job on an interstate. The number of collisions I've had is one, in all my years of driving.  Near misses don't count, using the horseshoes and handgrenades theory.

One night, I had a co-worker from out of town follow me on the interstate so we could go to a show.  Cognizant of the need for him to both keep up and keep me in sight, I refrained from my usual driving pattern.  It made the trip long and frustrating, and I commented to my colleague that I hated "not using ALL the lanes" when I drove.  He looked at me oddly and I had to explain.

Driving in traffic - not grid-locked, stop and go traffic, but just 40-80% occupied space traffic - is like playing tetris to me.  Tetris combined with chess, actually.  If I go to that space to my right, then move up past the red car, and use that space to the left, I can then move past the four cars in the fast lane that are holding everyone else up, and actually get out of this annoyance. Along with the strategic portion of that planning, is the constant evaluation and calculations - will my vehicle fit in that space? Will it fit now, will it fit when I get there, based on the speed of the vehicle behind that space combined with my speed?

Thinking it through, being aware of how I drive and what's involved, I've now realized why I don't drive as well with people in the car as I do when I'm alone.  When I'm alone, it's me, my calculating brain and the music. No distractions.  Add passengers and I'm done.  Which explains why people who ride with me don't understand what a really good driver I am - they just need to get in the back seat and STFU to let me calculate in peace and quiet...and music.

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