"But I just need to know what to do when I'm driving and everyone else is being an idiot!"
Your sensei reminds you that the other drivers are not idiots, but simply have not reached enlightenment. You were so ignorant once, not long ago.
There are practical steps you can follow. Meditate on these rules. Concentrate deeply on executing them to highest fulfillment, and you will find your commute will be faster and less stressful. If enough people become enlightened, traffic will no longer be a problem at all, and we would have more time for other pursuits (such as putting on makeup, reading, and eating sushi).
The Tenets of Traffic Zen
- Take Responsibility and Repeat the Mantra. Just because other drivers are setting a bad example does not mean you should follow. A true believer must stand out. You must drive by example. You should remind yourself that "I am Seattle Traffic". You should also display an attractive and informative bumper sticker.
- Find the True Speed Limit. Find the true speed at which traffic is moving as a whole. There will be different speeds for each lane, but you are going to switch lanes as little as possible. Find a speed that allows you to brake and accelerate gracefully. Find a speed that leaves as much distance as possible between you and the car in front of you. Concentrate hard on constantly rediscovering this speed.
- Switch lanes as little as possible. You will be tempted to switch to a lane that is moving faster now. But you should not punish your fellow travelers by causing a hold up while you take a chance on getting to your destination a microsecond earlier. We will all arrive earlier if we all change lanes less frequently in congestion. If you can change lanes graceully, with cause and conviction, do so.
- Leave as much room ahead of you as you can. You can never leave too much, because a car from another lane will occupy it if you do. Which means you will need to leave more space. You will be surprised by the comfort you receive from the space in front of you. You will feel like you are in control of the road. You will be able to stop more gracefully.
- Merge Gracefully. All vehicles involved in a merge are ideally traveling the same speed with enough gap to fit each other perfectly. Think of it as teeth in a zipper. If one of the teeth of a zipper stuck out and waited until a few other teeth on the side passed, it would not work. Likewise, you must not stop when merging (unless all others are stopped as well). You must let others in. They need but one car length, and you have plenty to spare. Allowing them in front of you will mean they will not have to be confronted by a less enlightened driver, which could cause you grief you have no control over. Even if the merge happens behind you, you are being selfish, and you would not wish the same upon yourself.
- Brake Gracefully. Anticipate the cars stopping before their brake lights come on. You must use your third eye to see the third brakelight. If you have not tuned your third eye, you may find that looking further ahead than the car directly in front of you will allow you to predict the future just as well. And because you left as much distance in front of you as possible, you will be able to see better and brake earlier and more slowly. Never brake more than you need to.
- Accelerate Gracefully. Commuting is not a race. Some treat it as such, but they ultimately are the losers. You must resist the urge to go faster than the True Speed Limit. You will find that you will not receive a paper ticket for this, but you will pay dearly with your time, which is much more valuable. Only ever accelerate to move your speed closer to the True Speed Limit.
- Reduce or eliminate distractions. See the Secondary Goals. Just like when you learned to drive, you must have no distractions to achieve Traffic Zen. You may add them later as you become enlightened and understand the implications. You do not understand the implications yet.
- Know your directions. If you don't know where you are going, please study a map before you leave. Pull over if you need to look at it again. It requires discipline, but you must. You do not belong on the road if you do not know where you are going. You are not driving during rush hour without a purpose, are you?
- Be awake, alert, and aware. Get plenty of sleep before you go to work. Wake up early enough to not have to rush to the car. Pay attention to the road and be ready to respond to the ebb and flow of traffic. Know where your fellow commuters are positioned around you. Anticipate their need to enter, exit, merge, accelerate, and stop. Be thankful if they have the courtesy to signal. Be even more thankful if they do not flip you off.
- Be Patient. You will encounter many other pilgrims that lack enlightenment. You should feel sorrow for them, but not anger. When you begin to feel anger, remind yourself to teach someone about Traffic Zen today. And then actually do it. We are all in this together.