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Moishe Matzsos, the Man Who Cut Corners, and How He Fought Abnormally Dense Traffic

Updated on January 18, 2013

There are ways to be efficient in your everyday dealings, and then there is time management genius. Genius in orders of sheer magnitude – Richter scale genius, close to a 9.

A tidy man with an uncharacteristically untidy desk, Moishe Matzsos was such a person.

Moishe knew how to scoop up random paper clips with a blackboard eraser-size magnet and then brush them into the perfect paper clip receptacle, a smooth little plastic well with gently curved sides, so that one’s fingers could easily push a paperclip or two up and into one’s waiting pointer finger and thumb.

He knew how to shop for over 100 grocery items in a mere 18 minutes. And how do you grab and cart 5.8 items a minute in a store that has 18 aisles spread over 20,000 square feet?

Most of us stroll down the aisles, glance absentmindedly overhead for the aisle we are on, and then zigzag around the supermarket to find this or that. Not Moishe.

He spent two full weekend days visiting 4 local supermarkets, comparing prices and produce quality, and then, upon picking his favorite store, proceeded to memorize the four or six distinct sections of every aisle, so he knew where the toothpicks were, the ketchup, the pasta, the frozen chicken dinners, the crackers, the small hot sauce collection, the order of the dairy items, the potato chips, the pickles, and another 97 desired items.

By his fourth shopping excursion at Voyager Rick’s Finer Foods Emporium, Moishe could find most of the items he wanted... blindfolded.

This kind of cleverly efficient, time-saving approach the former uncertified bean counter brought to many larger endeavors and smaller routine tasks.

Matzsos! Here was a man who shined all his shoes but once a year, wearing each pair until the shine wore out, before moving on to the next pair. The same man shaved, brushed his teeth, cleaned his ears, and trimmed his nose hair while in the shower. He read four books simultaneously, returning them all to the library on time, and on the same day. And, he used only one roll of toilet paper over 84 days time (don’t ask).

But none of this organizational proficiency and tidy waste management, as admirable as it was, could compare to his ultimate feat: navigating rush hour traffic on the L.A. Freeway in such a way as to bypass most of the vehicles, all of the police, and nearly all of the discarded wrappers, cans, bags and beer bottles as if they were fluorescent orange racetrack pylons.

This was the genius part.

For the exact same distance, other commuters spent 49 minutes, minimum, getting from Sherman Oaks to South Spring Street in downtown L.A, near the Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Not Matzsos. This drive took him only 23 minutes. In traffic.

I can hear you now. “How did he do it?” you ask. Sit down. You’re sitting? Fine, sit down more.

First, Moishe expanded upon his supermarket model. He gathered data. Then he took trial runs. For an entire 7 months, he recorded his arrival and departure times between five distinct portions of his daily route. He analyzed the traffic light patterns, and the most common bottlenecks. He studied travel time differences based on rain days, days before holidays, along with school bus routes and established state government data. He even factored in days of large solar flare activity and the daylight traffic before full moon Fridays. He charted these data points day after day, week after week, entering each piece into his laptop. He set up a detailed chart, which he memorized.

Matzsos called it his Refined California Freeway Commutational Computation.

Then Matzsos bought himself a motorcycle.

This was not just any bike. Moishe Matzsos did his homework, took eleven test drives, and wound up with a screaming superbike, the Yamaha YZF-R1.

Matzsos, who once owned a motorcycle during his Semester Abroad studying math in Moscow (see video link), took his new motorcycle out to the desert in Victorville, up the Ventura Freeway and, deep in the middle of the night, the windier portions of Highway 1. Matzsos even traveled down to Baja and the Mexican beach coast, and back again, until he became as proficient as Steve McQueen in The Great Escape -- or as close as a 56 year old former accountant could get on a race bike, which was rather awesome to be honest.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? Neither did the groggy morning commuters of Los Angeles, California.

(c) 2013 Ken Taub

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    • profile image

      Jamesm1968 

      5 years ago from UK

      In the UK, it is called 'ride to survive'.

    • Kenja profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Taub 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Think Yiddish, dress British they say about business. When it comes to getting around traffic with a zippy bike, I guess you can say plan Yiddish, ride British. Cheers, Ken

    • profile image

      Jamesm1968 

      5 years ago from UK

      Sounds like he adopted the same attitude to biking as every UK biker has.

      Here in the UK, bikers regularly ride the line between two lanes of traffic, time entries onto roundabouts so as to not have to stop & ride up to the front of a stationary queue of traffic.

    • Kenja profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Taub 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thank you RM, there's a little back-story behind this, but we'll do it in person, perhaps over lunch soon. Say hi to Lynda please. yours, KT

      p.s. catch the attached video of racing thru the streets of Moscow?

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      OMG - I bet this guy rotates his tires every 90 days! Great hub about a fascinating, if somewhat obsessive, guy. Lynda wanted to buy me a Harley for my 50th birthday (long time ago) - There was a backlist so she got me a jet ski. Just think - I could have been a Long Island Matsos! Voted up funny and interesting

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