Merge etiquette

I was on a highway this evening, in rush hour, driving a route I take three or four times each week. In one stretch, there are three lanes, and the leftmost lane is an exit lane to one route, while the center and right lanes merge into one lane that feeds onto the main route through town. The lanes are marked so that the right lane is the one that ends, and the center lane is the one that remains.
In practice, how this works is that the well-behaved drivers move into the center lane, while those who cannot read signs seem to accumulate in the right lane. Once they put their phones down long enough to notice that their lane is coming to an end, they often merge fairly smoothly into the center lane. It is the left lane that drives me batty. Cars race along in that lane, some of them actually headed for the exit, and the majority angling to dive into the center lane, ahead of the countless cars they just passed. A few of the cars have out of state tags, and it is quite likely they do not know the traffic pattern and their behavior is an honest mistake. Most of these speeding cars do have local tags, and you know they drive this route every bit as often as I do. They zoom past, no turn signal, no brake lights, and then right as the dashed white line turns solid, they veer right – just as you knew they would – and barge their way into the flow of traffic. Some drivers see them coming, and tighten ranks in a way that is very understandable yet not at all safe. Some drivers are literally blindsided by these cars, and the brake lights flick on as they dodge these line jumpers. Every time I sit there in the middle lane, I wonder what goes through these people’s minds?
Presumably they do not like waiting in line, but of course, that statement applies to everyone on the highway. Presumably they are busy, they have places to be, they have jobs to get to, families to care for, comfy chairs on which to sit, and again those statements apply to everyone on the highway. Do they not think of this at all? Do they consciously think they are better, their time more valuable than all the sheep they pass? Do they feel bad as they do this? Do they sneer at the chumps?
As wrongdoing goes, I realize this is small change. Most of the time, these people hurt no one, although they do often endanger others with their impatient maneuvers. Yet I cannot help wishing there was a state trooper lurking where he could ticket this behavior. These drivers are so selfish, so self-involved, and their driving speaks so loudly to their unwillingness to behave in a civil manner. When people decide to live together, part of the compact they make should include respectful behavior that exhibits the equality and respect we would all choose to have afforded us. The Golden Rule at work, right?
There is no greater point here. The world has its share of jerks, and this does not constitute some powerful new observation on the human condition. Still, it saddens me each time I sit there in the middle lane, watching the jerks get where they are going more quickly than I am because they cannot be bothered to wait their turn with their fellow citizens. I think it reflects a thread in American society that is broken, a lack of civility that is a symptom of much bigger problems with how our society chooses to live with itself.
What examples of selfishness and incivility do you see in your daily lives, and do you think these behaviors speak to any deeper trend?


5 thoughts on “Merge etiquette

  1. from my FB status update, 9.3.14:

    on driving in heavy highway traffic, rules 1-5

    rule #1) mentally, you must not be in a rush – even if you’re late. raging against stop-and-go traffic is futile and will drive you insane.

    rule #2) keep up with the flow, but avoid hitting the gas or the brakes as much as possible (burn less gas, spend less money, extend the life of your brakes): practice the art of acceleration and coasting.

    rule #3) if 2 lanes merge, honor the zipper system.

    rule #4) if someone wants to cross into the lane in front of you, it’s civilized to let them in. (there are, however, some exceptions, which one reserves for the most disrespectful and entitled pricks).

    rule #5) reckless driving and crazy energy are contagious; if you almost had an accident because of some idiot driver, be on the lookout for more.

    1. Entitled is a word I should have used in my post. It’s exactly one of the things I thought these people. All good rules, MDF.

  2. You at least have traffic rules that are followed over there (I’m assuming Australia or England; if the exit is the left most, you drive on the left hand side of the road). Here, in India, people give not a damn about the lives of others and endanger millions of lives on a daily basis.

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