Thursday, July 27, 2006

changing lanes

there's a place where the on-ramp to a highway i take sometimes merges in from the left of the highway. i hate it, because it merges into the "fast lane," instead of the far right lane, so other drivers don't want to let you in. plus, there's a concrete median that creates a blind spot where you need to be looking for oncoming traffic, especially since you're coming in on an angle, so you can't see what you're getting into until you get virtually to the end of the on-ramp. at times, the people who are merging simply have to stop at the end of the ramp, look across their car to the passenger side mirror for an opening, and then accelerate really quickly to get onto the highway.

i try not to use this exit and this on-ramp because its design and the other drivers are just dangerous all the way around. but yesterday, i was headed home, and i somehow forgot to take my detour. i was forced to stop at the end of the ramp, and then two cars stopped so closely behind me on an angle that i couldn't see the traffic, and i couldn't move. the other two cars could see, so they merged from behind me. then i could finally see. i saw an opening, and floored it. unfortunately, my transmission didn't pick up as fast as i thought it would (i'm still getting used to this car) and the car i was merging in front of didn't slow down, so they had to get out of the way to keep from hitting my rear end. however, they were okay, i was okay, and i was relieved.

i thought little of it beyond feeling relieved. until the minivan that had to move to make way for me abruptly cut in front of my car. it took a few fractions of a second to realize that this was their retribution for having to go around me when i merged in front of them. if i was them, i'd have been upset, too. but that's where it would have ended. i would have thoroughly cussed them out (without looking at them or making eye contact) from behind the wheel of my car while driving away. i only wished that was the end of it for me. the minivan driver confirmed that it was indeed retribution when the window rolled down and a brown masculine arm came out and artfully flipped me the bird with a passionately dramatic flourish. i laughed out loud! my thoughts were, no worries mon, nobody got hurt, and i'm happy to be alive, aren't you? shooooot. i'm going home.

i don't get that gesture often, and i don't do it to others. but i understand the people who do it. they're angry. they're probably in a hurry, and then this donkey's posterior orifice comes and does something stupid. and they take it personally, because they see their car and the space they're taking up in the road as an extension of their person. and you know how people get when they feel violated or disrespected. it's like when the white guy stepped on gian.carlo espo.sito's (buggin out's) jordans in do the right thing.

but i personally draw a line. i allow myself to verbally vent, but not in a manner that's directed to the other driver. i don't refuse to let people in, nor do i cut people off out of spite. i don't make eye contact and i don't make gestures. i don't tailgate and i don't roadhog. i don't follow people, and i don't carry a weapon in my car. i've seen enough network news magazines to know that stuff can get you killed. and i'm too young and too cute to die. and dangit, i just got this car. it's too young for an accident.

this is exactly why i refused to attempt to pass the minivan driver after they cut me off. they baited me - they wanted me to pass them, i'm sure, so that they could yell at me, or cut me off again, or perhaps even worse, side swipe my car or knock me into the median - you never know what can happen. instead, i decided to ride at a safe distance well behind them and keep them in my vision at all times. we rode together for miles. every lane i got in, they got in. they slowed to a 50 mile an hour crawl while everyone else was doing maybe 65, 70 miles an hour around us. i really wanted to just go home, but i was afraid of their anger, and too cautious to try to pass them. i reached for my cell phone in case i'd have to call the police.

finally, miles down the road, i rode in an "exit only" lane that i didn't intend to take, and they drove away. but even then, i drove cautiously, hoping they didn't stop ahead of me to watch for me from the shoulder so that they could follow me home. it was a nervous little ride, but i made it in one piece. i am sorry for the part i played in that little drama - i should have waited the entire 20 minutes it would have taken for infinite space to open up before merging onto the highway if that's what it took - and i'm sorry if having to change lanes inconvenienced them, but i worry about what may happen the next time someone pisses them off. i'm also glad for them that i don't have a violent temper or a gun, because when they cut me off and flipped me the bird, they put their own life in danger. you never know who you're dealing with on the road, family.

be careful out there.