Thursday, August 10, 2006

Back Like Lemmings Into Shiny Metal Boxes

There's a theory in physics that says something along the lines of, "two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time." Now I'm no physicist, but that concept seems to make sense to me. But the next time you or someone you know is having a tough time understanding that concept, just take them out for a ride on the roads during rush hour. I can almost promise that you will have an example of this concept occur at least once, if not twice or more during your voyage. It seems that in this day and age of rising tempers and road rage, there is never a shortage of bad drivers with even worse tempers out there.

This morning, after many days, I was commuting through the Springfield Interchange and beyond towards South Van Dorn Street. Now anyone familiar with the Washington Metro area knows that this area is one of the most confusing and convoluted interchanges on the road. As such there are cars dashing from one side of the highway to the other. Often with little regard or concern. Everyone is off in their own little car, or as Sting so eloquently put it, "Lemmings in shiny metal boxes". And almost every one of these drivers is attempting to shave just another few seconds off their time from home to work or vice versa.

The whole thing begins to resemble qualifying at a race! What gets me though is that it seems that so many drivers are out there with blinders on. I mean we left the days of horse buggies long ago, so then why do so many drivers drive as if they have those horse blinders on? To give you an example I've seen so many times in the past week; there are roads out there which may have three lanes at one point but will later compress down to two lanes. In most cases (though there can be the rare exception) the fact that a lane is ending will be indicated well before the lane ends. Still, people will continue to fly down the road oblivious to the fact that they need to merge or risk running off onto the shoulder.

Since many people treat this like the qualifying heats at a Formula One race, we see folks in both the continuing lane and the ending lane, racing side by side, neither one wanting to give an inch. Usually one will finally give way and let the other in but by then the tension has already built and people start to get ticked off. Case in point in today's picture. Is it really worth the time to try and cut in front of someone or pass them? Those two people probably ended up paying thousands in repair costs; thousands in court costs; thousands in fines; and thousands more for therapy to deal with their rage. It has residual carryover too. A vast majority of folks who got caught in the rubbernecking traffic this incident probably caused will also have had their tension levels rise. It's not good...

Pay attention to the road... don't look five feet in front of you, keep an overall picture. Cutting and weaving like a boxer will save you seconds, nothing more. Respect your fellow drivers and they will respect you. There will be the occasional jerk out there (and there are plenty!) but don't ever let them get the better of you. I wouldn't want you to become an example for some physicists lecture.


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