Desert Companion

Rant: Merge Rage

I was angry. No. Angry wasn’t the word. But, angry, yes. And? I wanted to slam on my horn, to flip on my brights. I wanted everyone to do it my way — the right way. But acting out would be pointless. Road rage was not the answer. And yet I raged (quietly, inside my car).

What was the word? The feeling? Furious? No. But, furious worked, sort of. Another car left its lane early, swept into the other lane too early, slowing down the whole process. You’re doing it wrong!

Once again, I fantasized about dropping all of it, the whole tangle and mess of Vegas construction traffic, into the Holland Tunnel approach on the Jersey side. Forty lanes of traffic, toll booths, and then a continual merging down to two, yes, two lanes. That’s where you learned to merge properly. That’s where you learned to go to the end of your lane and then to take your turn — each lane alternating. A Zipper Merge. Traffic never stopped. Tens of thousands of cars per hour moved fluidly from 40 lanes down to two — well, maybe it was only 20 lanes, but, still, they dwindled down to only two with barely a tap on the brakes. It was the same at the Lincoln Tunnel, the GW Bridge, the Throgs Neck, and dozens of toll plazas on the Jersey Turnpike.

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Snapping out of my daydream, now I shouted, “Go to the end and take your turn!” The driver ignored my advice because it couldn’t be heard through my closed windows, air-conditioning, and Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!

Deeper into the malaise. The new Spaghetti Bowl. Construction cones. Brake lights everywhere. The line of traffic, each lane ending, merging into the other. Jerks not letting the next car take its spot!

It’s called a Zipper Merge. Stay in your lane until it ends and then take your turn, one car from each lane moving into a single lane in an easy, alternating flow. When done well, no one ever needs to step on the brakes. That’s how it moves millions of commuters in New York City every day. Yet here, so few understand. Drivers aren’t willing to play the game. Why hinder the flow? Why? Because drivers are afraid of another car getting in front of them, getting ahead by some tiny measure? There’s plenty of room for all of us. Just slow down, go to the, and take your turn!

My heart pounded. I counted the cars ahead and calculated. I’d be between the red Lexus and the semi. I liked trucks; they know how to merge. I eased up. The green Prius in front of me hesitated. I shouted through the windshield, “Take your turn!” It didn’t take its spot before the Lexus. My temples throbbed. I was too far forward to allow the truck to pass. Screwed. The Prius took my spot. Thankfully, the truck left me room. I slid into line behind the Prius.

Frustrated. That was definitely the word. Gregory A. Kompes

Gregory A. Kompes drove the freeways and turnpikes of New York for 13 years before moving to Las Vegas.

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