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A Beautiful Mind

How we behave behind the wheel, echoes in eternity.

Posted on 2009.02.19 at 14:22
Current Location: 75070
Current Music: Giacchino - Speed Racer / Horner - A Beautiful Mind
Tags: , , ,

Have you ever just watched the movement of ants? They're fascinating in their perceived lack of interaction with each other as they singularly move to complete their assigned task; yet taking into account the movement of others in relationship to their own to create seamless, efficient lines of communication without which has the potential to destroy the very logistics which enable them to survive.

When I'm behind the wheel of a vehicle, I employ the Nash equilibrium:

If we all go for the blonde and block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because no one likes to be second choice. But what if none of us goes for the blonde? We won't get in each other's way and we won't insult the other girls. It's the only way to win. It's the only way we all get laid.

Rather than choose to be hell-bent on constant speed 'because I'm right' or 'because I have the right-of-way' I've found that I'm more efficient and make more ground by not only anticipating other's moves, but more importantly so, reacting to them. In merging traffic for instance, whether I with it or it with me, I vary my speed accordingly by either accelerating or slowing to slip between cars, or more easily allow them either in front of, or behind me more easily. Not only is ignoring this overly simply concept rude beyond words, but by helping them, you help yourself. Driving in traffic is a corporative effort - no one 'wins' if one person chooses not to participate, but everyone has the potential to lose.

And the only reason to not do so, is selfishness. It always amazes me how many people expect other's to be understanding and accommodating when they themselves are not. I run into all sorts of craziness everyday, and post about it often:

  • The lady who slowed down on the highway entrance ramp, just before entering a two-lane road filled with vehicles moving at a high-rate of speed (I was behind her.)

  • The guy who was going the posted speed limit in the left hand lane with a 'WWJD' bumper sticker on his truck (He'd get the fsck out of the left hand lane, that's what Jesus would do!)

  • People who 'slow down' if someone comes upon them too fast (rather than, you know, move over?)

  • Drivers in large vehicles who believe that the 'Law of Tonnage' is an *actual* legislative writ which is judiciously levied.

Why the Nash equilibrium works with respect to traffic:

What Mr. Nash recognized was that in any sort of strategic interaction, the best choice for any single player depends critically on his beliefs about what the other players might do. Mr. Nash proposed that we look for outcomes in which each player is making an optimal choice, given the choices the other players are making.1

You're not the only one on the road. And anytime you selfishly do something because you're "right" you're automatically wrong - because you've failed to make your optimal choice based on what others drivers may do. So even though you can take solace in the fact that you won the battle, in the game of life, you've lost the war.

I apply these same rules in every increasing level of the game. Earlier this week traffic between work and home was moving unusually fast. Someone was coming up on me really fast - I looked down and noticed I was driving 100mph. I can only imagine how fast the person who was closing the gap between us was doing. Thankfully, it was a no-brainer; I did what I always do in these situations - I moved over.

1 The New York Times "Business" Section.


thesweetestnote at 2009-02-19 22:40 (UTC) (Link)
Ya read my mind. I have put the above into practice and my road rage has vanished. What would really get me is those asses that like to "leap frog" - y'know, they tailgate you, then pass you on the right only to cut you off to squeeze into the space you leave in front of you to keep from rear ending someone. It was usually "on" if someone did that. Then a dangerous game would start.

I realized I had to grow up or suffer a severe consequence such as a wreck, or getting shot by "Tex" or "Vato Loco". I wouldn't want to die because of something so f***in' stupid.

ehowton at 2009-02-19 23:57 (UTC) (Link)
I was driving back from dinner with the family in the new vehicle when I made my usual exit at 70mph and the entire vehicle strained under body roll in a way I wasn't used to. It was then I realized I wasn't in my Tiburon and immediately slowed down for the curves ahead, which I normally don't have to do in the GT.

Its going to take a little while to remember which car I'm driving in the future.
wardlejew at 2009-02-19 22:45 (UTC) (Link)
100mph!!! hmmm. What is this post about? Get out of EHowton's way or else?


Speed is the main reason in automobile fatalities. But hey, it shortens your time to get somewhere, even to the life-after.

wardlejew at 2009-02-19 22:48 (UTC) (Link)
But I don't really expect the great car stories from your blog to stop. =)
ehowton at 2009-02-19 23:50 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I forgot to 'tag' it as such.
ehowton at 2009-02-19 23:50 (UTC) (Link)
I don't make a habit of driving that fast much these days, mostly because the area between work and home is heavily patrolled. It was very unusual that everyone was traveling so fast. Thankfully, my car doesn't doesn't have any qualms whatsoever. I wish I had a 6th gear in that vehicle.
dawaioser at 2009-02-20 00:18 (UTC) (Link)
I've given up on courtesy being extended from DFW drivers and especially that merging onto the highway thing. Ridiculous.

Edited at 2009-02-20 12:19 am (UTC)
ehowton at 2009-02-20 01:25 (UTC) (Link)
Compared to some places I've driven, DFW is like a cathedral of politeness and selflessness.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-02-20 01:14 (UTC) (Link)
Most of the time when people are being assholes on the road, they're not doing it to be right so much as it is to exercise a form of dominance. When it is more expedient to allow them their compensate for their genitals, I do so. In cases where their actions might slow down traffic or be a safety concern, I act accordingly to minimize the effects of their need for immediate gratification. The most important thing when driving is the flow of traffic; if everyone is cooperating, even bottlenecks can be dealt with at a decent pace.
ehowton at 2009-02-20 01:28 (UTC) (Link)
I act accordingly to minimize the effects of their need for immediate gratification.

One of the things which helps me is being able to out-accelerate most people. Where there's an opening, a quick double-pump of the clutch and a downshift, and I've outpaced the troublemakers by giving them a wide berth for their margin of error ;)
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-02-20 18:20 (UTC) (Link)
I should mention, however, that it is pretty much impossible to reach the speeds that you're discussing in this post in New York. Not that there aren't some people that wouldn't try, there's just not enough space to get going that fast before you end up hitting someone or something.

I've found something interesting about SUV drivers, however. They feel all safe in their big obnoxious vehicles, but they're so nervous about getting scratches on them, you'd think they were driving a Mercedes Benz. It's an advantage I find most useful, one of the main reasons why I'm glad I have a maneuverable car.

Driving in Manhattan is kind of like flying through an asteroid field, only the cabbies make it slightly more unpredictable.

Edited at 2009-02-20 06:20 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2009-02-20 19:02 (UTC) (Link)
Driving in Manhattan is kind of like flying through an asteroid field, only the cabbies make it slightly more unpredictable.

Perhaps you should install some of these on Executor:
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-02-20 19:10 (UTC) (Link)
Dude, of all the shit from the prequel trilogy that I'd like to have for real (not counting an Artoo unit, which is a given), gravitic mines are pretty high on the list. You don't know how much I mean that until you've been stuck in a traffic jam on the Long Island Expressway.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-02-21 01:50 (UTC) (Link)

Middle Aged Barry

ehowton at 2009-02-21 15:42 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Middle Aged Barry

Nice! Is that the one with his eyes sharpened? He looks so intense! I've only read half of your last two reviews; they're earmarked to be re-read and finished today. The reason for the delay? I want have The Lion in Winter and the orginal Urban Danger playing respectively.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-02-21 17:36 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Middle Aged Barry

Yes, that's the one I used. When you see it up close, you'll see the eyeline match between Connery and Shaw. And Urban Danger redux is going to be a nice companion piece to the upcoming Dirty Harry compilation. But, first thing's first.
ehowton at 2009-02-21 17:46 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Middle Aged Barry

joey_glover at 2009-02-20 02:03 (UTC) (Link)
people expect everyone else to accomodate them. "This is the only point-of-view that i can see. Therefore, it must be the only one that matters" is the best way to describe their thought process.
ehowton at 2009-02-20 04:06 (UTC) (Link)
Accomodate me now!
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-02-21 04:37 (UTC) (Link)
Elizabeth Krumbach
princessleia2 at 2009-02-21 12:31 (UTC) (Link)
The lady who slowed down on the highway entrance ramp, just before entering a two-lane road filled with vehicles moving at a high-rate of speed (I was behind her.)

Aaarrrggghh. The exit I use to get on the highway near my apartment has a particularly short ramp and you need to gauge your speed accordingly by peering at the highway on the way up. It's easy enough to do and estimate, even when in a small car (the highway is raised, but you *can* see cars in the right lane). Unfortunately about 50% of the time the people do as described above, which is a bit of a nightmare at rush hour since they cause a backup on the ramp and then rely upon the highway traffic to get out of the right lane to let cars on the road from a dead stop.

That said, I think it's fear, poor driving skills and lack of confidence rather than any selfish thought process that goes into inability to properly merge.
ehowton at 2009-02-21 15:37 (UTC) (Link)
That makes a lot of sense. You know what would scare me? Trying to accelerate from a dead stop in a break in traffic into that right hand lane. I know you're right about the fear, but isn't that scarier?
irulan_amy at 2009-02-21 23:43 (UTC) (Link)
I have been surprised how the constant nutty traffic here in L.A. has improved my driving skills and my patience with other drivers. I tend to think the same way as you do...

Also - you really rock for using a footnote in your post.
ehowton at 2009-02-22 04:44 (UTC) (Link)
I didn't want anyone thinking I was smart enough to come up with that explanation on my own ;)
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