The first car I ever drove was a seventy-something Chevy Nova. The thing was a death trap, whoever owned it before my mom never took care of it. I’ll spare you the details of the ripped upholstery, the brakes that caught about a quarter of an inch before hitting the floor and the radio that probably hadn’t worked since 1981. What’s important here, is that my mom was fond of saying, “If you can drive that thing, you can drive anything”. How right she was, in more ways than one.
I learned to drive on that car, but more importantly, I learned to drive on the main streets and backroads of Boston and its suburbs. If ever there was a trial-by-fire situation, it’s being a novice driver in Boston. Thankfully I’d had 17 years worth of observation behind me, so while operating the machinery was new, the rules of the road were not. For example, I knew that each lane of the highway has a very specific function and you were to use those lanes for their intended purpose: the middle lane is for traveling, the far left is for passing and the far right is for slower moving cars, as there’s a certain degree of caution involved due to cars exiting and entering the highway.
Now, at the time I wasn’t aware that the rest of the country doesn’t follow these rules, so to move out here to western Washington and be faced with a population of people completely oblivious to these best practices of highway driving was a shock to the system. They use all three lanes for travel, regardless of the speed, which is typically much slower than your average Boston driver, who maintains 5-10 miles over the speed limit at all times (unless their radar detector advises otherwise). It’s not uncommon to get boxed in by three cars who are all traveling at similar speeds across all three lanes — I shit you not. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. What’s wrong with these people?
I know, you Boston drivers are saying to yourselves “Just get over to the left lane, climb up his ass and flash your lights at him… he’ll move”, but no… he won’t. I too thought that was the universal signal for “Get your slow ass over to the travel lane”, but apparently that only works in Boston and the surrounding area because they don’t get it out here at all. That’s not to say you don’t see tailgaters, you do… but it’s usually people who’re sporting Red Sox or Patriots stickers and/or license plate frames (like yours truly). But we’re not the only aggressive drivers here… not the case at all, there are aggressive drivers, they just choose different situations to be aggressive in. Stupid situations.
There is a stretch of road on my daily commute called Novelty Hill Road. My husband and I have renamed it “Douchebag Hill Road”, partially because he can never remember the actual name, and partially because of the annoying, self-important dinks who make it their mission in life to piss off every other commuter on that road. The article linked to above seems to have a different take on it, but the brilliant engineers who designed this traffic mess don’t seem to pay too much attention to human nature. Allow me to explain:
Novelty Hill road was once a two lane road with nothing but trees on either side. In recent years, developers have moved in and erected these cookie-cutter housing and retail developments, necessitating the evolution of Novelty Hill Road into… a two lane road, with a small stretch that offers a temporary lane on either side for cars entering and exiting, and arguably, allowing for a greater volume of cars to pass through the single set of lights that dissects this controversial section of tarmac.
Those of us who travel this road know full well that if you jump out of line to get into one of these short-lived right lanes that lasts for about 15 seconds, you are either A.) turning off of Novelty Hill road, or B.) you’re one of those dinks who jumps out of line to cut 2-3 cars ahead in the 15 seconds you have to find a spot before the temporary lane ends and you have to merge back into the same lane you just moved out of. Regardless of whether or not the use of both lanes going through the lights keeps traffic flowing at a faster rate, it nonetheless results in a lot of animosity, anger and road rage that has been responsible for numerous accidents as people who jumped out of line to that right lane speed up and try to cut back in ahead of people who remained in the left lanes.
A few weekends ago we were traveling this stretch to run some errands. In front of us was a black beamer and in front of him was a red pickup truck. As soon as those fleeting right lanes appeared, Mr. Beamer decided that Mr. Redtruck was going too slow. He jumped out of line and sped up, only to find that Mr. Redtruck was going slow because all the cars in front of him were going slow too. No sooner did Mr. Beamer make this realization when the slanting white arrows appeared in his lane, instructing him to merge as the right lane he was in would end soon. He made the unwise choice of cutting Mr. Redtruck off, which we saw from our position just one car back.
Much to our surprise and delight, Mr. Redtruck was having none of Mr. Beamer’s shenanigans. Apparently the rage from having to slam on his breaks was enough to send him over the edge and into the right lane. Without hesitation he immediately sped past Mr. Beamer and cut the wheel hard while he laid on his horn to let Mr. Beamer know he was coming, and Mr. Beamer had better move out of his way. As Mr. Beamer was sporting a temporary license plate, Mr. Redtruck had been correct in his assumptions that his brand new sporty black baby would indeed yield to avoid a rather large dent and scratch of red paint.
A few blocks later, Mr. Redtruck pulled off into a left turn only lane. As soon as my husband saw that he’d pulled over to turn, he rolled down his window, threw out a thumbs up and yelled “THANK YOU!!!” as we passed by.