Road To Romance?

Many commuters stuck in traffic claim they pass the time flirting with fellow drivers—and succeed in getting dates! Here, how to do it yourself.

By Dustin Goot

e’ve all been there: Sitting in your car, immobilized by traffic, tempted to lay on your horn or bang your head against the wheel if there’s a chance it would make things move any faster…. Whether you face this scenario every morning during your commute to work or less often (which makes it no less annoying), there is actually an upside: Believe it or not, being on the road is a prime place to pick up cute (and captive) dating prospects. Just think: Every rush hour or traffic jam serves up scores of car-bound singles begging for an interesting distraction (like you!). The key is to be fast and extremely forward, before changing travel conditions spoil a promising opportunity, and of course keep in mind that safety should come first. So, buckle up and trade road rage for romance with the following tried-and-true lessons:

Road rule #1: Preparation matters
This is a lightning-quick pickup, so you must be ready to pounce. “You have about 30 seconds max,” says Mark Owens, a morning radio-show producer at 99X in Atlanta. He
Every rush hour serves up scores of car-bound singles begging for an interesting distraction (like you!).
learned the time pressure first-hand when he went on assignment to test his charms during morning rush hour. Everything starts with eye contact, followed by a smile or a wave. Once you have a person’s attention and if the traffic is slow enough (you’re crawling forward or pretty much stopped dead), ask him or her to put down the window and lob a friendly comment. (You could try holding up notes if verbal communication won’t work, but that’s much more difficult.) “You almost need a script,” Owens says. A good default is to ask what music keeps them sane during the commute. Focus on personal details connected to the person’s car if possible. “College football is big around here,” Owens says. “If you see a University of Georgia bumper sticker, ask them about last weekend’s game.” Don’t draw out the conversation—there’s no time. After you elicit a few smiles or laughs, say that you’re worried about getting separated and ask for a number to continue the exchange via text.

Road rule #2: Creativity matters
“Don’t say, ‘This traffic sucks,’” advises David Wygant, who offers dating tips at “It’s cliché and negative.” Try to make a joke of the situation, such as, “I didn’t think anyone else knew this shortcut (even though you’re stuck on a freeway).” Or jokingly suggest a race to see who hits the next “Exit” sign first. Wygant says some of his SoCal friends drive around with cardboard signs bearing their name and phone number, in case they catch someone’s attention but don’t have time to talk. The roads are such an improbable pick-up setting, you may have to try bold things you would never consider in a bar.

Road rule #3: Time it right
When it comes to flirting in traffic it’s important to catch people when they’re open to an adventure, rather than when they’re stressed and angry. So, don’t wink at businesspeople sending frantic BlackBerry notes at a red light. In general, morning rush is a tough environment. After-work congestion is better, especially on Friday when everyone is thinking ahead to weekend fun. Al, a veteran car flirter, says, “If it’s a sunny day, and the woman is looking around casually, I know my chances are much better.” Al has even transitioned straight into a first date within minutes of meeting someone: “I’ll pull up beside a cute girl and ask something innocent, like whether she knows an all-night diner nearby,” he says.
The way you drive can make or break someone’s interest.
If the woman warms to his conversation, he’ll ask if she wants to join him. If you try Al’s tactic, just make sure you are inviting the object of your interest to join you somewhere very public; that’s basic “dating safely” common sense.

Road rule #4: Driving etiquette matters
We don’t care how cute you are—the way you drive can make or break someone’s interest. It may seem obvious, but road rage is not going to win you many admirers. Honking is obnoxious. Riding up on another driver’s tail is rude, but driving too slow is also annoying. Letting other drivers in can look sweet, especially if it allows you to extend a conversation. But if the person you let in honks and speeds off, know that means “That was fun but it’s over,” Carrie explains. “Do not follow.”

Road rule #5: Your car matters, too (but not as much as you think)
Annemarie Conte, who covers the auto beat for Jane magazine, compares having a nice car to having a great recommendation for a job interview. “It gets you in the door,” she says, “but you have to do the work yourself.” For guys who want a head start, Conte notes that any woman will go a little weak-kneed for a Mustang. And while guys are more likely to focus on a woman’s attributes than her car, the Jeep Wrangler can evoke a hot Daisy Duke vibe. What’s much more relevant (for either sex) is that the car looks clean and well-kept. Don’t have junk visibly piled up inside, and affix bumper stickers at your own risk. Some people may laugh or agree politically, but just as many will be turned off. Most importantly, the exterior should be as pristine as possible. “If you own a 20-year-old car that still looks amazing and lovingly cared for,” Conte says, “people will assume you’d treat your partner the same way.”

Dustin Goot is a freelance writer based in New York City. He has also written on dating and relationships for Wired and Time Out New York.
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