A traffic tale of narcissicm and justice

On my way to work today, I got caught in an awful traffic jam caused by a fatal accident that closed the northbound lanes for several hours. I should have known better than to get on the freeway to begin with, noting that it was backed up pretty badly, but I managed to get right back off to try to make it into work on the back roads. Well, as so many others had decided to do the same, even that alternate route was bumper to bumper and barely moving. Called into work to let them know I’d be seriously late and settled in with Diane Rehm and a story about college education (how timely).

So, I find myself sitting at the end of the offramp about to attempt to turn left and merge into traffic once cross-traffic is clear. As all lanes are completely full and stopped, I follow the guy in front of me into the center island, activate my right turn signal and hope like heck someone lets us in. Good news! The guy in front of me is let in by a big pickup, so I ready myself to zipper in after him.

But the lady in the red Honda Civic is having none of that. She’s practically kissing polite pickup guy’s bumper as he inches forward. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see the white minivan behind her is doing exactly the same thing. Sigh So this is how it’s going to be. How long will I sit here as everyone jockeys self-centeredly for position? Big pickup inches forward, I inch forward, red Honda inches forward right along side me. I catch her eye and gesture that I’d like to merge. She shakes her head negative. We all inch forward. I catch her eye again and point to big pickup, thumbs up, point to myself, thumbs up? No dice – she’s adamant that it’s her turn.

I could let this go. I’m not really bothered, but we’re all wanting to get out of this mess and on principle I decide to take a stand. So I turn off the radio and roll down the passenger window. I call out to her loudly, “Excuse me, can you please let me in?” She rolls down her window and I think we may be able to work this out.

“No. I’ve been stuck in this for an hour,” she replies.

“Well, it looks like everyone’s been stuck in this mess for some time. Nevertheless, I’d like to get out of it, too, and I can’t do that until I can merge into a lane. Now, I noticed that truck right let the guy in front of me into the lane, so how about we take turns? You could let me in now and then we’ll both be on our way.”

She shakes her head emphatically. “No. I don’t have to.”

Well, now she’s just being petulant. I’m irritated. I can’t help but call her out. “Look, the solution to this jam is to take turns. It’s called zipper merging. We go, then you go, then we go, then you.” But, then I decided to do something quite out of character of me. I escalated the confrontation.

“Did you learn how to take turns in school? Now would be an opportune moment to demonstrate the social skills you were taught in kindergarten.” I knew at this moment I had lost, but I didn’t care. I’d eventually get to merge and sometime in the future I’d get to work, but it felt good to call her out.

“I am NOT a child.”

As she rolled up her window in a huff, my last words to her floated out with the wind: “That’s funny because you sure are acting like one.”

Little did she notice, during our verbal sparring a young dude in the lane to her right was maneuvering directly into her lane just ahead of her taking advantage of a bit of space she’d inadvertently left open as I held her attention. Just as her window went up, she realized she was in the process of being cut off and just as I noticed this amusing turn of events, the damnedest thing happened. Big pickup pulled ahead and young master of the cut-off dude smiles at me and waves me in front of him.

I gave him the thumbs up and pulled in just behind the big pickup as he pulled in behind me leaving selfish lady in the red Honda who was Not A Very Happy Camper at that moment two cars behind and visibly fuming.

Karma’s a bitch, sweetheart.

To whoever you are, young dude, thank you. You absolutely made my day.

Great story. And I’m impressed you knew the term “zipper merging.” I’d never heard it before but it makes perfect sense.

Well, all I can say is I’m a Doper. I learned about it here. Wish I could find the website someone linked long ago in a past traffic-related thread that enlightened me. Suffice to say, I’m a big proponent of zipper merging and using all available lanes up to a bottleneck. The application here was not typical as I wasn’t technically in a legal lane, but the intent is the same: to allow *all *vehicles to efficiently merge and progress through heavy traffic. She just didn’t want to play fair.

I encountered a similar situation in Seattle many years ago (1989). Big traffic tie-up, trying to merge into a large flow of traffic trying to get on I-5 S. I in a big bubba pickup (TX plates, NRA stickers, etc.) and little cars aggressively defending their follow space.

I rolled down the window, got the nearest driver to do the same, gestured to the U-haul trailer behind me and yelled that I was “movin’ back to Texas”. He actually backed up a bit, got out of his car and played traffic cop gesturing me into the opening. Everyone in earshot had a good laugh and some waved and wished us a safe trip.

I am sure it will be this site you are thinking of. I was talking about it with my son last weekend as I am conducting my own anti-traffic experiments. Great fun.

That’s the one! Although, it looks like its been updated since the last time I was there. Thank you for sharing it again!

I love stuff like that. Thanks for sharing.

Yay for Young Dude!

In Canada – well, I witnessed it in Ontario at least – when highway lanes are required to merge the big rigs work it out on their radios to block the left lane to keep the jerks from whizzing down and cutting in in front of the law-abiding citizens who are patiently merging away in the right lane. Quite awesome.

Here we go. Are you saying that the big rigs are intentionally blocking an open lane?

Yay! I love zipper merging.

What I don’t like is people who take advantage of us nice souls that do zipper merging. Dude, I let one guy in front of me as is custom. You do not proceed to also go in front of me. And guy behind that guy, same shit. You know why that gap is there? So cross-traffic can still go, instead of all of us blocking the lane. That is not an invitation from me for the next bajillion cars turning right to go.

Too many people leave their manners at home once comfortably ensconced in their steel and glass cocoons.

Awesome story!!

Zipper merging, sign of a civilised society all up…capitalism can safely disintergrate now we are all polite and zipper merging.

Sorry, I feel for the lady in red. She has been waiting patiently and legally. You show up and expect her to yield to you? I wouldn’t. Wait your turn, just like everybody else.

Now if it’s two legitimate lanes merging into one because a lane is closed, yeah, I’ll let you in. If you’re trying to pull out of a parking lot, I’ll let you in. But you sound like those people who zip up an empty lane that everyone knows becomes a turn lane, then stick your blinker on and expect all the people who’ve stayed in the lane they intended to be in to bow down to you.

“Did you learn how to not to cut lines in school? Now would be an opportune moment to demonstrate the social skills you were taught in kindergarten.”


Given the scenario in the OP, what exactly is “your turn”?

There were hundreds of us waiting in line patiently, including myself. I didn’t expect her to yield to me. I asked her politely to do so, just as so many other people who’d been waiting patiently were doing. It’s called courtesy.

I didn’t zip into an empty lane, I crossed opposing traffic lanes to make a left turn onto a roadway that was back up bumper to bumper for at least a mile. I had my signal on and made eye contact with other drivers. The only way out of my predicament and into a lane was by the courtesy of one of those drivers. I was exiting a closed freeway. Traffic was piling up behind me as others did the same. What else was I supposed to do?

I didn’t cut in line. I asked for courtesy. Politely. She chose not to give it to me, but fortunately for me not everyone is so self-centered.

In any case, as I noted I’m a proponent of zipper merging and practice it routinely. I never feel the need to lock someone out of a lane for any reason whatsoever. Traffic flows more smoothly when people cooperate.

Forgive me, but I do not understand. If you ask politely, as you said you did, does that mean the person must honor the request? You asked, she said no. I may be missing something, but to me it seems you were the one expecting her to give in to you just because you “asked” - that to me is a demand, no matter how nicely it phrased.

Well, initially, yes. I thought if I make eye contact with a driver and be polite, she might be courteous. Isn’t that usually the way it works? But at the point I noted, I realized that courtesy on my part was fruitless. She was never going to be courteous. But that doesn’t preclude me from pointing that out to her, right?

However, it all worked out for the best. You reap what you sow, yes?