You’re Only Making Things Worse

Today just seems like the right day for a “Damn kids, get off my lawn!” post.

“We only have two seasons around here: Winter and Road Repairs.” I’ve heard that saying applied to several different places in various parts of the country. The Bay Area, though, is blessed–or in this respect, cursed–with a comparatively mild climate. As a result, road repairs are more like a standard feature of the freeway than a seasonal event.

That means I’ve had plenty of opportunities to witness what “typical driver” means today. It’s not a pretty picture.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the idiots who weave through traffic at high speed. They’re more common than they used to be, regrettably, but they’re still not in the majority.

No, my gripe today is with the mentally and emotionally stunted people who have forgotten the one basic unwritten rule of the road: “We’re all in this together.”

The ones who try to minimize their drive time by switching lanes whenever the adjoining lane is moving faster. Not only do their antics force everyone behind them to slow down and adjust spacing, but they even shoot themselves in the foot: the diagonal of a lane change is longer than the straight line of staying in the lane you’re in. More territory covered, more time taken*. Simple math.

* Yes, I know it’s less than a second of additional delay. So? Half a second here, three-quarters there; it adds up. Five lane changes going across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge probably adds as much as two seconds to the commute (and costs you a couple of pennies in the most expensive gas in the U.S.)

But IMNSHO, the biggest offenders are the ones who are so impatient that they can’t manage a simple merge. Not a merge onto the freeway, the kind where two lanes turn into one, as happens when a lane is closed for road work.

Remember how merges are supposed to work: first a car from the left lane proceeds through the choke point, then one from the right. One from the left, one from the right. Left. Right. So easy, even preschool kids can handle it*.

* On foot. I’m not suggesting that five-year-olds should get driver’s licenses. Though, come to think of it…

Instead, we get drivers in the left lane riding the bumper of the car in front of them so the guy in the right lane can’t take their turn or racing to the choke point to piggyback on someone else’s turn. (The extreme form of this is to pull onto the shoulder and floor it to jump ahead of two or three cars waiting their turns. Fortunately, this approach appears to be an aberration, common only in areas where weaving through traffic at high speed is common.)

And it’s so pointless. The reason those cars are waiting to take their turns is that traffic is being slowed down or blocked by the ones who won’t take turns. And that’s even before the thoughtless drivers cause an accident that completely blocks traffic.

Hey, I’ll make a deal with y’all: remember your manners, take turns at merges, and I promise I won’t foist milk and cookies on you. Agreed?

Distance Learning

A rant:

I was going to ask for a little restraint, but on reflection, I don’t think there’s any of it in stock these days.

Specifically, I was hoping we could avoid developing herds of self-appointed distance monitors.

Yes, social distancing is necessary. Absolutely no argument from me on that.

But demanding that people move is not the way to get it done. Humans are contrary creatures. “You have to move,” or “Hey, you, six feet!” just make the recipient want to move closer, strictly out of spite.

It’s in the presentation.

Try “Could you please move a further away?” That’s not so hard to say, now is it?

Or, if you’re in a place of business, just pointing to the tape marks on the floor will probably get the job done–and if there aren’t tape marks, say something to the staff, don’t excoriate your fellow customers!

Because, let’s face it, most people don’t have a clear mental picture of what six feet is. (Hint: your foot is probably not a foot long, and even if it is, you’ve never seen six of ’em heel to toe.)

I have a pet theory that many people, if asked to estimate six feet, say to themselves, “Well, I’m a few inches shorter than six feet, so it’s a bit longer than I am tall.” Then they picture themselves lying down, think, “Ew, this floor is filthy, I don’t want to lie on it,” and completely forget to add the necessary inches to turn five-foot-something into six feet.

All that aside, though–and taking the whole flies/honey thing as given–the possibility for escalation is scary. Because moderation and restraint are, as previously noted, in short supply.

These days it’s a small step from admonishing a random stranger to move a aside to demanding they clear off “your” sidewalk, then to calling the cops on someone you think is too close. After that, the weapons come out, and we have a whole different class of virus-related deaths.

Again, yes to social distancing. But remember that “seventy-two inches” is an arbitrary distance chosen for a number of reasons, not all of which have any grounding in virology.

The whole point of social distancing is to not crowd together, to not loiter near other people.

It is not to get in people’s face in the name of getting them out of your personal space.