are they compensating for something?

August 1, 2008

You know how you’ll just be driving along, and you see someone stopped at an intersection, or just a driveway, or even just on the side of the road, waiting to pull out onto the road you’re on? And you’re thinking, “He’ll pull out after I go by, right? That’s what I would do. That would be the reasonable thing to do.”

But just when you think you’re safe, he whips out into the road in front of you, maybe in front of 3 fast cars coming the other way, and is now going about 20mph slower than you are, but of course, he’s in FRONT of you.

What’s the first thing you do? Besides inventing new combinations of old words?The first thing I do is look in my rearview mirror to confirm that there’s NOBODY BEHIND ME FOR AT LEAST A MILE! Really? You HAD to get in front of me, you HAD to get out there 1 second in front of me, instead of 1 second AFTER me? Did I LOOK like I was going to hold you up?

The best (and by best, of course, I mean the WORST) was this morning. The guy pulls out in front of 3 cars coming the other way, right in front of me, accelerates to just BELOW the speed limit (I of course immediately checked the rear mirror–nobody in sight for half a mile), and within a quarter mile, he slams on the brakes and turns right. I’m pretty sure that me and the other 3 cars were the only cars on the road for a mile in either direction.

These metal boxes we drive around are like huge doses of Viagra. Would you ever do the same in a grocery store while you’re driving a shopping cart? I think that’s the answer–if we could get everybody into those little Smart Cars, problem solved. Would you even pull in front of a runner in a singlet with a fanny pack (in other words, a triathlete) in one of those? I think not.

7 Responses to “are they compensating for something?”

  1. KanyonKris Says:

    I’ve observed the same behavior and had the same puzzling thoughts.

    It seems many drivers have an impatience timer in their head that increases their anxiousness to go, go, Go (the timer appears to max out at 15 seconds), after which they will ram their vehicle onto the road whether it’s clear or not, even if (as you noted) there’s no other car in sight behind you.

    Serenity now.

    And thanks for the triple tease.

  2. Keith Says:

    I think Kris is being overly generous — I see many people whose “impatience timer” (love that term) maxes out at about 3 seconds. Some people seem to have theirs set permanently to 0 before they ever get into a vehicle.

    On a related note, every day I see drivers who must have been absent the day “taking turns” was taught in kindergarten. This is especially evident when two lanes of traffic merge into one. Rather than cooperate with other drivers and merge sanely, the dominant tactic seems to be “pass as many cars as possible and dive into the other lane at the last possible minute”.

    I believe (perhaps naively) there is a sort of “Nash Equilibrium” for driving: if everyone cooperated, traffic would be better for everyone.

  3. KanyonKris Says:

    Keith, merging is another bad driver topic. I used to get annoyed at drivers who would butt ahead. But then I was informed drivers are supposed to stay in the lane and merge where it ends. Not sure if that’s true, but it may explain why some drivers butt ahead.

    So now I do a hybrid: I stay in the lane, but go the speed of the cars in the lane next to me and when the lane ends I merge over. This seems fair and makes for a more sane traffic flow. But man have I gotten dirty looks, gestures and honks from zippers (that’s what I call aggressive drivers) who see all that empty lane in front of me before the merge.

    BTW, you know the best response to an angry driver? Say they flip you off. They expect anger in return, right? Smile and wave all friendly like. Drives them crazy.

  4. Jeff Says:

    My wife complains about the same thing – just wait three seconds and the road’s all yours!

  5. Keith Says:

    @Kris: “..I was informed drivers are supposed to stay in the lane and merge where it ends”.

    Embarrassingly, it never occurred to me these zippers (another great term) are actually following proper procedure. I can’t recall actually being taught to do it the way I do; it’s just something that evolved organically over the years.

    I guess it’s time for some research…

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Check out this week’s New York Times Magazine for a fascinating article on the “zippers” topic.

  7. mark Says:

    I had the driver who couldn’t wait ’til I got passed to pull out Friday morning while I was coming uphill towards Dug’s neighborhood. Except that I was on a bike. And he was driving a cement truck. And he didn’t pull out in front of me. He started pulling out when I was right in front of him. Good thing cement trucks accelerate slowly. I gave him a look, and he yelled at me as if I was supposed to stop, wait for him to pull out, and then try and regain what precious little momentum I had.

    Zipper’s a great word, because it saves me from calling him a ____face ______nozzle.


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