Thursday, February 4, 2010

A commuter's plea

It's a common trope that Los Angeles is filled with asshole drivers. I wonder, really, which type of asshole people are referring to? Depending on who you ask, an asshole driver could be one of two main types: the asshole who drives too slow and the asshole who drives too fast.

Now see, #2 is definitely scary - they include the weavers, the swervers, and the tailgaters. And I have a hunch this is the type that people are usually referring to when they talk about asshole "LA Drivers." But after several months of commuting downtown, and having to deal with all kinds of erratic driving behavior in bumper to bumper traffic, I've got to say that the true #2s I come across are few and far between, and it's the #1s that make my commute that much more traumatic.

I mean really, is it so much to ask that if you want to drive in the fast lane, you should feel comfortable keeping up with the flow of traffic and the car in front of you? The thing is, it's totally fine if you think the car in front of you is going more quickly than you feel comfortable driving, and if you think 65 mph is the speed limit for a reason. The thing is, you just need to move over to the right - into the "slower" lanes - and not leave a huge and ever-widening gap between you and all of the cars in front of you, forcing the ever-growing line of cars behind you to hold your pace.

I can't tell you how maddening it is (unless you've experienced it yourself) to feel in your gut like there is no reason for traffic to be this bad, so then you somehow maneuver your way to the front of what turns out to be a pack of cars all practically next to each other - all going 65 or less and forming a nearly impenetrable wall. This should never happen! The people who want to go 65 or less should form a queue behind one another in the slower lanes, occasionally passing if someone in front is going a hair too slow, but moving back to the right if the traffic behind you and to your left appears to be going noticeably faster than your preferred rate of speed.

Now granted, you'll still get the assholes who will try to thread the needle with their cars - the needle in this case being the none-too-sizable gap between two other cars in heavy traffic - in order to get somewhere marginally quicker than everyone else. You'll still see the guys (and gals) who play like the freeway is that level in Mario Kart where they're swerving in between all of the cars to get through. But I've actually gotten to a weird place of acceptance with those drivers - they're kinda freaky for a second as they're passing by and getting really close to my car, but once they've done that they're pretty much gone, zoomed by and I don't have to deal with them anymore. The suckers that hold up traffic are actively interfering with my ability to get from A to B.

Interestingly, I've also noted that one driving maneuver that really pisses people off isn't actually limited to aggressive types. I'm talking about getting cut off. Sure, the aggressive ones have no qualms cutting you off if they think there is an advantage being in your lane and in front of you. But curiously, the slow, meandering types are often just as likely to cut me off just out of being oblivious. They slowly drift into the lane in front of me, taking no note of the fact that my rate of speed is significantly faster than theirs, and then they don't accelerate. The aggressive types who cut me off because their end goal is to go faster actually only just cause me to kind of tap my breaks for a second, just to allow them room, but I don't need to slow down significantly. The slow cut-off is therefore worse because I really need to throw down on my breaks to very quickly get down to the speed they're going. That SUCKS.

What do you think? Am I a lawless #2 who deserves to get held up by a more upstanding citizen who follows the speed limit? Or can slow drivers and fast drivers learn to peacefully coexist in different lanes?

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