Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Merge

You're stuck in traffic (the really bad kind of traffic).

You're late, of course.  You were already running late when you left, but now you are extremely late (the give-up-worrying-about-it kind of late).

It's not a big deal, really.  Just a family function.  You call them and tell them to start without you, but really the call wasn't so much to inform them as it was to share your plight with someone who might care.  They don't seem to mind, telling you to "drive safely," which should be easy, considering you are cruising at less than 1 mph.  It is the kind of driving that doesn't require the gas pedal, only a hovering foot over the brake.

You get to the point in the road where three lanes become two. 

That's when you see him. With your peripherals.  He enters your life from the right at a blistering 3 MPH, trying to get into the middle lane (yours).

You quickly spring into action, moving your vehicle forward to reduce the space between your front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of you. The space shrinks from three feet to a few centimeters.  As you do this, a great number of foul words enter your brain at once, mashing into an unintelligible string of highly offensive names, some of which are actually spoken.

You hate this guy.

He slithers along further, looking for a different opening.

But your lane-mates are strong.  You couldn't be more proud of them as they pull off the same move you did, filling in the gaps.

It's clear to you that he has been riding in the right lane his entire life, speeding past you and everyone else who waits patiently in traffic like they are supposed to.  You don't even need to see the person -- just the car -- as it tries to edge its way into the tiniest crack.  You know that he is a guy who cheats and takes any shortcut possible in all aspects of his life.

But today is when you stand against such a villain.

Today is the day that justice prevails.

Your windows are up, but you can almost hear the collective cry of the drivers in front of you as they echo your sentiments.  "Not on this day!" you all say as you rally against him, maintaining your gapless strand of vehicles.  You pay no heed to the fact that, five or six times, your sudden acceleration to maintain your flank almost causes you to hit the car in front of you.

But who cares that, in stand-still traffic, your pristine driving record is at risk?  This is justice we are talking about here!  This guy must not be allowed in the lane!  If he wanted to get in the lane, he should have done it way back there, like everyone else!

But the thing you're forgetting is that the guy in the right lane is you.

Seriously.

He's you, yesterday.

Remember?

You were on a stretch of I-95 in Maryland that you had never been on before and you thought you had to get off.  And you flew by all the people who were slowly crawling along the Beltway, only to realize that you were wrong.  The exit would only take you onto another congested highway, and would add God-knows-how-long to your commute, which is a very long time.

You needed to maneuver your way back onto I-95.  You slowed down and looked for a gap in the cars.

There were no gaps.  It was seamless.

Desperate, you stopped looking for openings and began looking at the drivers themselves, trying to find a sympathetic face.  You wanted to explain to them, "I didn't know!  I was just driving along and got very innocently confused.  Please help me.  Please, please help me and let me in."

You even gave them your "Oopsie" face.

But the drivers were too busy inching their vehicles forward, maintaining the seamlessness, pretending not to see you.

Your desperation turned to anger.

Who were these assholes and how could there be so many of them?  How could they all be so callous and unsympathetic?  And what was so important that they couldn't possibly afford to allow one mere car-length of additional traveling time stand between them and their destinations?

If you hadn't been so panicked and frustrated, you might have noticed that you, yourself, were one of those links in the impenetrable chain of assholes.  It would have been difficult to notice, though, considering you never turned your head to face yourself.

But you were there, inching forward in the name of justice instead of slowing down a little bit, waving your hand, and saying, "Go ahead.  I'm you, tomorrow."

-Youngman Brown

9 comments:

  1. The Beltway is a special circle in the inferno.

    Love,
    Janie

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  2. I know this all too well. When I'm driving, everything that everyone else does is wrong, and I'm always the slighted party. It's only on reflection that I realise that it might have been me who was the real asshole.

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  3. Yep. This is every time I get on the roads. I either turn into a big, road-raging jerk, or I'm the innocent bystander who got caught in the wrong lane and is just looking for someone to give me a break. When not blinded by rage, I do try to be a nice as possible about letting people in when they are stuck. I figure it will give me some good karma to cash in when I need someone else to show a bit of mercy.

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  4. Leaving the train station, a cop is positioned at an intersection (which desperately needs a stop light) and guides traffic. Unfortunately for a lot of people taking a left, the cop will force them into the left lane since the right lane is too crowded. If you try to get in that lane to take a right further up the street, people will lose their minds. It's funny seeing them talk to themselves while avoiding eye contact with you as you try to merge with them in order to take a right.

    I usually let people go knowing that I've been on the otherside of the battle many times before. But, should someone try to inch their way forward when the pattern is clearly one by one from each lane, you can bet that I'll be ensuring that the pattern stays that way. I'll crash my car before letting someone ruin the attern of one by one. That made no sense did it?

    But, yeah, for the most part I share your same view. I've been the jerk enough times to know when someone's not doing it intentionally.

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  5. God, I'm glad you are back. This is the kind of stuff I missed!

    Anyway, I have a friend who has major road rage. She asks me why I don't freak out at other cars, and I'm always like, because I make dumb mistakes all the time! I just think of myself in their shoes.

    But having said that, the wait-to-the-last-minute mergers really do annoy me! :)

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  6. You portray the anger, resentment, stinginess, hatred and (ultimately) hypocrisy so well.

    Superbly constructed post.

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  7. I used to be both of those people, but I have made a concerted effort to be zen. It's just a commute, no rush, I'm not trying to prove anything, no one gets an award for arriving 2 car lengths sooner. Sure it doesn't always work out, but even monks flip off a soccer mom with a van full of kids sometimes, right?

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  8. You're way nicer than me. You see, even if that was me yesterday, I maintain a constant "eyes forward" approach. That car does NOT exist to me. Heaven help me if I see someone using the shoulder...BAM my car moves right to block them. Honk all you want, you giant DICK WEED, you aren't getting past. Don't think I haven't considered opening my door on a motorcyclist shooting up between lanes in stand still traffic either...cause I have. Sure, we're all in this together, but when it comes down to it...I don't want to tolerate your dumb ass. I really am too angry a woman to be on the roads...shit.

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  9. This is why I quit trucking in the city. I don't want to have to make that choice. I just want to kill all of the people. ALL OF THEM! Sorry, I think it's time to book another appointment with Dr. Listentomyshit.

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