Thursday, July 1, 2010
It is a Friday mid-afternoon and I'm heading home from work.
Where I enter the Interstate it is five lanes wide and full of traffic. The speed limit is 55. You will get killed if you go that slow. The average speed is probably 80.
It isn't far from the toll booths on the Delaware-Maryland border. Traffic on the other side of the medium is at a stand still, lined all the way back from the toll plaza. Traffic going my way is moving, a hugh mass of cars, trucks and occasional buses all speeding to the Northeast like a strange metallic blanket on wheels.
The speed limit in Maryland is 65. You pay your toll, cross the line and suddenly it is 55. Nobody takes notice and nobody is only doing 65 either.
I have to cross all five lanes from the far right to the far left. Its part art and part daredevil act. If I don't slide down to the third lane I 'm going to find myself trapped going to New Jersey or New York via the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It's a Friday afternoon in the good ol' summertime. The seashore is beckoning, the outer lanes are already bumper-to-bumper and slowing to a crawl.
I've gotten pretty good at this and I make it down to the far left lane alive. Now around the bend another lane will appear and I will slide over once more.
I am coming toward Wilmington and around a bend I am suddenly in the middle lane. Five lanes went to six and now down to three. But the right lane is going to disappear down an off-ramp in a short distance and then we will be on a two-lane highway. Traffic is still heavy and fast and on the shoulder of the road is a sign. It says, "Road Construction Ahead - Right Lane Closed". That right lane is my lane now. Another sign warns us to "Merge Left 2500 Ft."
That's about a half mile, so I flick on my left turn signal. I'm not one of those people who speed along as far as possible and then at the last moment zips into the other lane. They're the people who slow everything up or cause accidents. If everyone would ease over and each car in the open lane would let one car from the closed lane enter traffic would keep moving at a steady pace.
I know this won't happen and I am not going to get a half mile down the road and find myself trapped in the closed right lane.
There is a gap in the traffic to my left and I begin to slide in, but as I do a SUV in the left speeds up and closes the gap. I am still trying to ease in, but now he beeps his horn at me. What is his problem? Doesn't he see the situation? Of course he does, he's just one of these selfish, self-centered losers who think they manhood is endangered if they yield to anyone.
I am still inching into the left lane, but now he speeds up a bit more trying to cut me off and I have to swerve back to the right. It is lucky I wasn't hit by the on-coming cars.
I am side by side with this guy now. I glance over. He looks like a yuppie-type. A woman is in the passenger seat. She looks yuppified as well. The man is perhaps forty or late thirties, bald. He stares straight ahead.
I pull ahead in my lane. A sign on the shoulder says, "Lane Closed - 1500 feet".
I pull ahead of the next car in the left lane. A woman is driving alone. I pull ahead, my left blinker still blinking and she lets me over into the gap ahead of her. I am determined to let anyone needing to merge left to merge now.
Ahead is a large blinking arrow blocking off the right lane and pointing left. Now all those cars that have been whizzing past me and whizzing past the selfish SUV guy who wouldn't let me in are switching over to our lane. Traffic comes to a stop, then continues in a spurt and stop, spurt and stop.
The guy in the SUV is still one car behind me. This is what was ahead for him all along. What did it gain him not letting me merge?
It is one lane all the way through Wilmington. It seems to take forever to pass the city and the line of orange cones before we have two lanes again. Eventually we are out of the blockage and speeds pick up. There is far less traffic on this side and I am cruising along now. I look in my read view mirror and there is the SUV, trapped behind two trucks, slowly fading away in the distance behind me.
I couldn't be happier.