I was in slow and go traffic today, thinking about how to drive. I like to go slowly enough to keep a steady pace for as long as I can before having to slow or stop. The person behind me looked like he might have been from the go-as-fast-as-you-can school, which involves a lot of stopping and starting. He seemed frustrated with my slow and steady approach, and I felt stressed out by his tailgating.
Both approaches have validity. People who tailgate might arrive a bit ahead. It might feel like they’re doing more to get where they want to go. They are using every bit of speed available to them. But that approach is also sort of jolting. There’s a lot of sudden stops, desperate acceleration, then dramatic braking. People who go slow and steady miss a lot of the jerkiness. There’s a feeling of spaciousness and ease, even in difficult traffic. But there has to be trust as well that the space in front will stay open, that opportunists won’t leap in front and make you slam on the brakes anyway, only now you’re several car lengths back.
There are things in my life I do in the jerky start and stop way. I pick up new craft projects, rush forward, spend money, get supplies, and then stop. Everything takes up space and gathers dust as my enthusiasm ebbs and dies. Sometimes I pick it up again, sometimes I don’t.
I don’t like the physical feeling of sudden starts and stops. I like the smoother approach to driving because it feels better. But it’s not good for the competitive part of me. I sometimes measure my progress compared to that person with the new license plate in that lane, or the person in the blue car in the other lane. I don’t want to let them in because I want to get there first. But when I can relax and see that it’s actually to everyone’s advantage to allow people to change lanes with enough room, so no one has to slam on brakes and risk hitting anyone, and we can all feel like we are on the road together so let’s make it as easy as possible, then I slow down and allow space.
I can’t help but think that other things are like that in life. That competition gives us a narrow and jerky view of the world. That making space for everyone makes everything feel more spacious. I like to think that I’m helping to calm traffic, so there’s fewer jams, when I’m taking up a lot of space between cars. But even if that’s not true, it’s an approach that just feels right to me.
I’d be interested to hear from the go fast people – what feels right to you about that? I’m sure there’s benefits I’m not thinking of since it’s not my natural style. There should be room enough for all of us on the roads, and all driving styles.