The man in the SUV didn’t understand the concept of the merge.
He didn’t realize, or didn’t accept, that the onus was on him to integrate himself into the flow of traffic. He didn’t realize, or didn’t accept, that the flow was already flowing, and that, while it would certainly adjust to his arrival, it would grant him no privilege.
The execution of the successful merge required that he acknowledge the established position of others. That he allow for their right to be where they were. That he moderate his speed, be it faster or slower, in order that he might join with and participate in the community of commuters.
The successful merge would not be facilitated by his head-long hurtle down the on-ramp, close on the wheels of the car in front of him, in full expectation that the community of commuters would magically accommodate his sudden, hulking presence. That it would cede to him the space he so favored, that it would not ask him to wait his turn, that it would simply make way.
Driving makes me crazy. Drivers make me really crazy.
3 thoughts on “Rush Hour”
On the Lions’ Gate Bridge in Vancouver, four lanes merge into two and then those two lanes merge into one, in each direction crossing the bridge. Sometimes in rush hour the wait for the magic moment of merge is up to 45 minutes. 99% of all drivers, being mostly polite Canadians, perfectly take their turns, making the maneuver like an excruciatingly slow dance. Some with US licence plates, and most with Alberta plates, think it’s a competition and that they are benefitting the entire flow by leaving absolutely no space between their car and the one ahead. You can sense this from the way they drive long before the merge.
These are probably sad, lost people. They are lost in their own grief, rage, impotence and emptiness. My response when I see them is to say “once, in many ways, I was like this person; I am so grateful that I escaped that hell”. Their behaviour manifests as the exercise of privilege, but beneath it I think is a sense that everything is struggle.
And so much depends on how we choose to see it. As David Foster Wallace wrote in his famous convocation speech: “The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way… Most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that YOU get to decide how you’re going to try to see it.”
That DFW perspective is lovely. I aspire to it, mostly. And merging, that’s like a dance. Usually. This SUV guy, tho, he just scared the hell out of me.
Really awesome meditation on living in society.