Thursday, July 20, 2006

(E)Merging Thoughts

An incredibly intense day today. So I'm gonna keep this entry on the light side.

Here's the thing. I've been driving to church every day for the past two weeks, about a 45-minute drive in morning traffic. At about the mid-point of my route, I reach a tunnel that goes through our hills where the four-lane highway becomes a two-lane, with the left two lanes having to merge over to the right. There are also some folks merging onto the highway into the right lane. A large sign announcing the need for folks to merge right is placed about a 1/4 mile from the tunnel's entrance. Every morning the traffic clogs up there and we all inch our way forward until we get to the tunnel. Alright. Got the picture?

This is what I've noticed about myself: I would much rather welcome someone into my lane than be the one who needs to merge into someone else's lane. So much so, that one morning I made myself stay in the lane that would need to merge, just to experience what it was like to have to rely, as it were, on the kindness of strangers. I found it excruciating.

I've also become very particular about following the rules of the road about merging traffic. Each car is to let only one in. My blood pressure soars if someone nudges their way in as a second car. And I don't like folks to merge until they reach the end of the line. No mid-way merging once you've committed yourself to the lane.

Finally, I am bummed at how few people take a half-second to wave a small thanks after I let them in front of me. As if thanking the person would imply some weakness on their part, or some kind of admission that they weren't completely entitled to that spot.

I spend the whole time I'm in traffic, every morning, pondering these things: Do the same people every morning choose the left lanes when they know they will have to merge over? Are there certain personality types that make one a merger and another a yielder? Does anyone consistently end up ahead of the pack in the end: is the left-most lane or the right-most lane moving quickest overall? What percentage of people offer the wave of thanks?

Any insights out there? How do you handle mergers?

Update: This morning I encountered a driver who took a completely different approach to the whole merging dilemma. She would remain in a lane until it reached the point that someone would have to merge in front of her--at which point she would immediately cut over into the next lane over by forcing her nose into the tiny bit of space between cars. I watched her do this no less than three times (once directly in front of me, causing my blood to boil). She seemed like a shriveled, hard-hearted human being--not able to admit anyone into her space, but preferring to impose herself instead. Amazing.


Songbird said...

It is more powerful to welcome, isn't it? Rather than having the stress of wondering whether we'll *be* welcomed?
I think you have a sermon about church hospitality in the making here!

cyen said...

As someone who is also fascinated by the thought process behind something as simple as merging traffic (we must be related ;)... It's been my finding that the people who do not pay heed to signs warning of an upcoming merge are the ones who spend less time waiting in line. I've done "experiments" with this :)
I find that in smaller rural routes I am much more likely to be in the "correct" lane way ahead of time so as not having to worry about others letting me in. But in the case of highway or turnpike traffic I will now stay in the lane to be merged as long as possible.
But I would also say... try out different experiments (safely of course) to see what you find... It helps pass the time when waiting in traffic jams :)

Revem said...

People that don't wave make me understand how road rage is possible.

I hate to admit it but I am a merger. Although I do agree that there are definite rules that go with merging.
1. You merge before the lane ends not once it has.
2. If you are choosing to be the mergee then you take the gap offered and don't wait for a better offer.
3. One person per space.
4. You always must wave thank you once merged.

From an apologetic mergee