In Heavy Traffic, Just Let the Guy Next to You Change LanesS

There’s one distinct advantage of my job compared to, say, your job. And that advantage is: I don’t have to commute. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Give up your salaried, safe office job with benefits and room for growth in order to become a writer, and you, too, could spend mornings concerned primarily with why the wireless Internet won’t reach the porch swing.

Of course, I’m not entirely immune to commuting. I spent the last three-and-a-half years of my life working in an office located in the suburbs, which excels in education and lifestyle, whereas I live in the city, which excels in property crime.

The result is that I spent a lot of time commuting, and as I recall it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. I also recall there was a tollbooth along my route, and I constantly got stuck behind the guy who went in the “exact change” lane even though his only form of payment was a personal check.

I’m not always spared from commuting these days, either. I often have to take my girlfriend to the airport, which would be fine, except that she usually schedules flights at around 6:30 p.m. on the day of a baseball game, and a basketball game, and what I can only assume is a global convention for the International Association of Left Lane Cell-Phone Users.

So I’ve done a lot of commuting. And in that time, I’ve realized there are, shall we say, a few flaws with bumper-to-bumper driving etiquette in our great nation. (These flaws also exist in Canada, which is a lot like our great nation except that parts of it have a license plate shaped like a polar bear.) And the biggest flaw is changing lanes.

Allow me to paint you a picture. I’m driving along in bumper-to-bumper traffic, also known as “rush hour,” or, if you live in the Los Angeles area, “always.” I’m not talking about the kind of bumper-to-bumper traffic where you’re rolling along at four miles per hour, and sometimes you get up to, say, nine miles per hour, at which point you excitedly upshift to second gear, only to have your heart sink when you go back down to four because you realize your next car will probably have to be an automatic.

No, I mean stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. You get the idea.

Now, say I’m cruising along in the left lane (Stop. Go.) and I realize my exit is coming up in the next mile, or approximately 90 minutes from now. So what do I do? Being a highly educated driver on account of spending at least one weekend per year in court-ordered traffic school, I put on my turn signal to change lanes. And what does the guy next to me do? He speeds up to block me.

Explain this to me, ladies and gentlemen. We’re doing an average speed of maybe one point seven miles per hour. No one is going anywhere. And yet, instead of letting me over, which would delay his commute by approximately one four-hundredth of a second, the guy next to me actually increases his speed so I can’t get in front of him.

The worst part is that you see this all the time. Some guy, wearing business clothes, lost in thought about that e-mail Johnson sent out at 3 p.m., the one that said there won’t be any more free donuts in the employee break room, suddenly decides he owns this lane God damn it!, a thought which coincidentally strikes him the second you put on your turn signal.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. And that is: Doug, have you considered that people might not let you in because you’re an asshole?

And I must admit, this is certainly a possibility. In fact, I’ve noticed my chances of being let in drop from roughly 50 percent to about 0.7 percent when I’m in my Range Rover instead of my Cadillac, while my chances of being flipped off increase by the opposite amount. Of course, these numbers aren’t scientific, because the Cadillac’s turn signals are so bright and annoying that people will generally do anything to make them stop.

But more often than not, I think people just need a massive lesson in bumper-to-bumper etiquette. So my advice to you is this: if you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic, for God’s sake, let the other driver change lanes when he puts on his turn signal. Even if he’s in a Range Rover. I know this might be hard for some of you, but there is a silver lining: you can still flip him off.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.