Zen and the Art of Auto Patience

Traffic. In LA.
Say the words and immediately everyone’s eyes glaze over with stress or rage. Who doesnít have a story of some aggressive idiot who followed them for miles when they inadvertently cut him off. Just last week I turned into a long line of traffic…there was lots of room in front to ease in….when suddenly the car behind me charged up to within two inches of my bumper and the guy leaned on his horn….for FIVE minutes! Just sat there and let it blare, not giving a goddamn about the increase in blood pressure he was causing to at least 30 people. In the past I’ve gotten angry, been super aggressive myself and felt my heart race with adreneline.
But I’m onto a new approach. And I want to put it out there, because if enough people embrace it….we can change LA!
It’s the Zen of traffic and the city of angels is the perfect place to practice it. There’s a Buddhist concept of patient acceptance. Getting into the flow of what is…rather than what you want to be. So I’m gonna be the one who let’s other drivers in, with a smile, rather than that stone face ignoring the wave. I’ll move over to the other lane when some gonzo charges up from behind and honks. I won’t react when someone cuts me off… I’ll assume they didn’t mean to almost cause an accident, but really didn’t see me. I’ll let the bus in. And when traffic comes to a stop, I’ll practice deep breathing and know that eventually I’ll get there and getting irritated makes no difference to anyone but me.
Personally…I think we can change the world! One car at a time!
And yes, I do believe in miracles.

13 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Auto Patience”

  1. Wow. I was going to post something entirely similar. I was thinking not too long ago about how rude people are in their cars, whereas in real life, they’d probably hold the door or let a stranger enter a building first. I’ve also recently begun being a patient, accepting driver and it’s really liberating. I can’t change anybody’s driving behavior so I just let them go. In the long run, it saves me the stress and I get to where I’m going just as fast. Great idea Tammara. Maybe we can revolutionize the mindset of LA drivers by quiet example. It has to start somewhere. We can have bumper stickers made quoting Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse: “Be Nice.” Hm. Or maybe just the patient acceptance thing. There’s at least two of us out there now.

  2. Or you could just leap out of the car and kick in the grille on their brand-new BMW and watch them crap themselves on the spot. Much more fulfilling and faithful to the LA spirit.

    Totally joking, of course. Great idea, Tammara. I’ve even learned to be more patient in traffic, in spite of all the idiots that have to go nuts. There’s one guy in our neighborhood that drives a blue late 90s/early 00s Jeep Cherokee who screams at people from the safety of his SUV. I just kick back and wish him a karmic nervous breakdown/heart attack for being such an assclown. If you’re reading this, Jeep Dude, hollering at traffic doesn’t make it go any faster. Common sense will tell you that. Thank you.

  3. I think you’ve got a great handle on how to deal with the roadiots, Tammara. It worked for me yesterday afternoon when I was heading south on Beaudry from Sunset just outside of downtown. A car shot out from the Jack in the Box across the street through an opening in the stacked up northbound traffic… didn’t even look to see if someone prone to angrrrr like myself might be on top of him. I slammed on the brakes and he jetted away and I commenced rehearsing my roadrage monologue in preparation for confronting him should an opportunity present itself.

    Sure enough I saw that we were going to wind up side-by-side at the red light up ahead. But as I pulled up next to him I was surprised to find myself just letting all the anger go. Coming to a stop I looked over and he was flashing this tense defensive/frightened expression. I just calmly waved a level hand and mouthed “it’s cool” and I’ve never seen anyone look more relieved.

    I was almost proud of myself.

  4. Wow! I’m SOOOO glad I’m not the only one….I actually thought I’d catch some shit for being so pollyanna in regards to hoping for a kinder, gentler road experience.
    Right on! Because when you really get down to it…it’s a self-destructing loop to get angry with traffic. And sometimes people even smile back!

  5. I totally agree! Too many people think that a bone-head traffic move is a personal affront. Once you remove the personal aspects of driving, it’s much easier to remain calm.

    (humor)Don’t forget, if it wasn’t for all the stupid people out there, we would not look nearly as smart(/humor)

    Except for the occasional idiot that you wish didn’t have kids to pass on their genes, LA, in my opinion, has extreamly skillful drivers. Maybe not terribly safe, but that’s a relative term. Don’t forget, cars used to have to have a man walking ahead of them waving a red flag!

    I’ll never forget waiting at a cross street on Olympic. The instant there was a gap in traffic, 6 cars did 6 different things at the same time, an nobody even hesitated. It was like syncronized swimming! (If you think about it, you’ll see what I mean)

    A little road courtesy goes further than you think. Not only karma-wise. For example, letting that guy in from the right lane ’cause there’s cars parked there not only helps him, but it keeps the traffic flowing smoothly for all the others behind you.

  6. Just last week in Beverly Hills I saw a Mercedes 500 with 3″ letters across the entire width of its rear bumper: “Courtesy is not a sign of weakness.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but this is definitely a great idea that should spread.

    I’d propose bumper stickers for the car, and t-shirts for spreading the word outside the car. Anyone got good design ideas?

  7. Once you try this approach it gets easy. Listening to good music helps maintain the zen mind set. I recommend traditional Cuban.

  8. Yeah Kathleen….music works great….although my personal faves lean towards house and trance for getting into that zen mindset.
    and Burns! bumper stickers would be great….I KNOW there are some good graphic designers out there….we could post them guerilla style on all the nasty as intersections & freeway ramps where blood tends to boil.

  9. LA drivers are often offensive, seldom defensive. There’s a common misconception that horns are for punishing, not warning or signalling.

    I’m amazed by drivers who while stuck in a seemingly infinite line of cars will honk incessantly as if the drivers in front of them have simply chosen not to move. Likely it’s a person feeling helpless and victimized, honking as a misplaced expression of power in a world in which they feel increasingly powerless.

    If you think of every assholic traffic maneuver as a driver’s desperate reaction to their unsatisfying life, it’s a lot easier to feel sorry for them.

  10. Great ideas for maintaining your own sanity.

    Unfortunately, many spoiled, precious, “LA Wonderful”, people will continue taking advantage of kind-hearted folk. They probably aren’t blog readers, but I bet they’d smile if they read this thread.

    Do take care of your health, but I recommend limiting how many people you allow to cut in front of you after they’ve driven along the shoulder because they are too wonderful to wait in line like the rest of us.

  11. Just a couple more common cents I wanna toss in regarding road rage: a great way to minimize the number of road warriors you encounter (or to reduce your amount of road warrioring) is to just get the heck out of your car. Even if it’s just once a week or even a month, leaving your ride at home and taking public transportation to and from your job can work wonders at keeping you calmer. It’s impossible to get mad at the yahoo in front of you when your MP3 player is feeding your head, or you’re making your way through the current novel you’re reading. Or both.

  12. yeah, well, I wish people in LA would come read my blog about what to do about the traffic in LA. I just got back from Germany and saw the coolest elevated train.. imagine if we had that here in the city.. damn.


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