The era of the road warrior is over. I practically live in my car, and to survive I have become a road ninja. Stealthy, wise, and vigilant a road ninja slips through traffic avoiding aggression and the insanity of other drivers.
Being in sales, I spend eighty percent of my work week on the road. Add in baseball games, scouting, cheer practice and church activities and I'm clocking some serious behind the wheel time. You could say I'm familiar with the gas pedal.
Armed with a floor full of empty water bottles and backseat boosters I have been witness to, and had near misses, with all kinds of mayhem. Just today there was a three car back-up pulling out of a gas station. After several minutes with no movement I looked ahead to see a pedestrian across the street waving, and having a conversation with the lead car. He couldn't hear so he took out his phone and started texting to the driver. A road warrior might have developed a nervous tick or spoken some very un-Christian words in a snarling voice. However, as a road ninja I took a deep breath and shook my head. Being the third car in line there was nothing I could do, and it would make for a good story.
Road ninjas have to be ever watchful for the careless and reckless driving of others. Spending so much time on the road I can now see the signs of someone who is getting ready to swerve into my lane or cut me off. Cars that are pulling out from side roads are dangerous "snipers" that can never be trusted. The problem with being so vigilant, is that it can make me a terrible passenger. Drivers that don't see major windshield time, tend to take in the sights when they drive. If you're viewing the scenery you're not likely to see that car ahead of you that's getting ready to thread the needle between two tractor trailers. Most of our cars have a spot worn in the passenger side carpet from me pressing on my imaginary brake.
Strategy is a key part of the road ninja arts. First is routing. The commonly known route is not always the best one. Sometimes encountering less traffic can be a very good thing. A good back road, as long as you're familiar with it, can save time and peace of mind.
The second strategy is defense. When it comes to highways and byways, the best defense is avoidance. The road warriors of old might have bullied their way through heavy traffic. The wise ninja stays away from distracted cell phone users, maneuvers past swervers and keeps a safe distance. More times than I care to admit I've glanced away from the road for a second, only to have to slam on the brakes when I look back up. Just inches and a prayer have separated me from the next car's bumper. If you're ever coming out of Petersburg, West Virginia by the Pizza Hut, those black skid marks on the road...yep, they're mine.
The more frequent case is the car that is following so closely you can't actually see the front of their car in your rear view mirror. Even a veteran can become shaken when the sound of squealing tires is coming from directly behind you.
It seems like navigating the roadways isn't all that different from making your way through life. Don't follow the crowd, keep your eye on people that are wrapped up in themselves and could be a danger to you. An imaginary brake isn't going to stop anyone, you have to speak up. Most importantly be aware of your surroundings, all the time. A little prayer never hurt either.
So, are you still an old school aggressive road warrior? Or do you have the stealth of a road ninja?