Traffic is like a river, flowing ceaselessly, ebbing with the curtail of the daylight active hours and the moving of people from home to work and work to lunch and back to work before heading on home again. For the city the night hours are like watching the tide go out in the shifting darkness, traffic illuminated by nothing other than the soft glow of taillights and the flat orange of sodium vapor street lamps.
It seems the same, every time running through the same route but each iteration is entirely different. There’s a charge to the atmosphere, a spontaneity of movement as a keen reminder you can’t predict the future or anticipate what the fuckhead in front of you intends to do with the stop-go-stop-go jerk of a foot caught between the break and gas pedals like a child in the middle of a divorce trying helplessly to decide where best their custody lay.
Riding traffic is fun. It’s “going with the flow” and letting yourself tumble around in the unidirectional madness like a stone in a stone polisher, knowing that at the end you come up with a few scuffs and scuttles short but more likely a shinier practitioner of the act of riding.
It’s also knowing exactly when and how to call a bluff, like a stone face poker player staring down a drunk you’ve never had the chance to play a hand against. A big part is random mega, a big part is fortune, and another part is entirely the ego-driven assumption that “you’ve got this!” and taking a hard line where Lady Fortune may just end up shaking her finger at you. To be a good bluffer you’ve got to believe your bluff lest the other think you’re just giving them an anticlimactic run-up.
Losing in traffic is no bueno. The more you ride traffic the more infrequent you have these little failings, but it’s akin to hitting an unfamiliar single track downhill trail with a bit too much gusto than you know you ought to have, and when realizing you misread that line and find yourself in an irreparable position with a clear physical understanding that the rotational momentum of your wheels in tandem driving your course and your anticipated trajectory are in sharp conflict: You gonna eat shit. People are unpredictable so when you put them in a big pinball machine where they each can choose a destiny there’s only the certainty that at some point a couple things are going to bounce off one another.
And it’s this, the entropic nature of traffic that is the allure. As it is never the same, neither are you when you set foot in its waters. Each ride, each pedal stroke in traffic informs you of its seemingly apoplectic chaos. So remember, your focus should be the focus of movement in the periphery and the sudden shift of the unexpected (usually from periphery into focus). Look out for flashy bright things or loud sounds but don’t let them capture the entirety of your standing attention. Take a deep breath and let yourself sink into the rhythm. Traffic is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, and despite your efforts to make it fast it never observes time.