Friday, October 16, 2009

Rules of the road

as i continue my early descent into the crabby "get off my lawn" phase of adulthood, from time to time i encounter situations where i get really annoyed with the selfish 'me-first', no-logic attitude put on display by some of the other human beings on this planet.

since i spend a decent chunk of my day in my car it's not surprising that a lot of these encounters are vehicle-related. in the world of driving there are certain fixed rules (speed limits, drive on the right side of the road, red light means stop, etc.) and then there are unwritten rules based on the concept of 'hey we're all in this together' and common courtesy. most of the problems you find on the highways and byways of America are due to certain people who willfully ignore the latter set of rules for their own immediate but ultimately insignificant benefit.

a good case in point that happened to me just this morning on my usual route to work downtown:

there's an overpass on a stretch of my highway commute where two lanes converge down to one as the overpass filters you onto the connecting highway. a logical and courteous driver quickly reviews the issue [two lanes' worth of cars must assimilate into a single lane without incident] and concludes , all cars and drivers presumably being equal, that at the point when the two lanes definitively become one the order of assimilation would be 'Car 1 from Lane A merges, then car 1 from Lane B, then Car 2 from Lane A, and next Car 2 from Lane B', and so on, presuming that car 1 in Lane A was slightly ahead of car 1 in Lane B as they neared the merge. this elegant ballet of merging cars occurs all over the US on a daily basis usually without a hitch because most people get the system.

what i see happen a lot to other drivers and today to me is when one of the cars in the other lane decides to circumvent the natural order.

so say i'm car 2 in Lane A; Car 1 in Lane A has gone ahead, then car 1 in Lane B goes - ok it's my turn now - fantastic.

but hey! - car 2 in Lane B sees me moving forward to my place in the merge and then proceeds to zoom up right on Car 1 B's bumper, keeping pace with me as our two lanes' width of total car-nage creeps up to the point where only one lanes' width will be able to proceed.

it's usually at this point that i start giving the pissed-off look and making the internationally-recognized criss-cross hand gestures that represent "hey , dummy, first one lane goes and then the other - get it?"

most of the time i get a look back like i'm the one who's being a jackass - there's about a 0.001% chance the other driver will cop to being the one who is in fact out of turn.

being desirous to avoid either vehicular body damage from collision or personal body damage from an unknown crazy person packing heat, i typically back off and let the baby have his bottle and we both drive off in a mood degraded a few points from earlier before the merge.

and what did the other guy get out of it? he's exactly one car-length ahead of where he would have otherwise been , something on the order of 0.3 seconds quicker to his destination, and for that minute gain a cost of shifting the world's vibe meter perceptibly more towards 'bad' than 'good' and also further cementing my conviction that the bad-natured people of the world will inherit the earth by stepping all over the meek.


Ryan S. said...

This is how everyone drove in Phoenix. It led to me developing a new, terrible driving style that scared the heck out of everyone when I'd come back to Texas to visit. I've since backed off.

But in Phoenix I saw some ridiculous accidents and nearly daily near-misses of fatal accidents because of the "I am more important than anyone else of their safety" style of driving.

The Social Bobcat said...

good point - there have to be signficant differences in driving style by region (think: traditionally aggressive Boston / NY drivers of legend)

still , i remember when i was younger that it was particularly remarkable to people not from Texas how polite and friendly the drivers were here- can't help but think that reputation has lost a little bit of truth. maybe on par with the rest of nation we're still relatively friendly, but slowly sliding on the absolute scale.