Article and photos by Jacob Black
Our roads reflect our rich and diverse society, with all personality types equally represented and, for the most part, co-existing happily as they tootle along to work, to see friends and family or to head home.
Sadly, the wonderful homogenized fabric of our road-going society is maligned by Merge Monsters, those horrible, nasty, mood-destroying menaces clogging our crowded arteries with their idiocy, oblivion, and worse. You might recognize these creatures below as you drive tomorrow, or, like me, you might recognize them too readily in the mirror. So, in ode to my morning commute, and in order to make my confession, I penned this rant, to call out the dirty, the dreadful, the dumb and the delirious.
Merge Monster No. 1: The Oblivious Timid Wallower.
Imagine if Piglet from the Hundred Acre Wood drove a car? Actually, you don’t need to, the perfect embodiment arises daily in our slip lanes and mergeways. They crawl, slowly around the on-ramp, paranoid their mighty steed will break into a wild skid, fly 30 metres into the air and explode, upside down in a fiery wreck, all at the mere hint of a bend in the road. Once free of that, they pause to collect their thoughts briefly before turning their limited attention back to the road. “Oh dear,” they mumble, “those cars are going so fast!” And so they crawl out towards the highway, 40 km/h slower than the flow of traffic – and if they don’t actually stop dead at the end of the merge lane – slowly tiptoe out into it.
It is stupid. It is dangerous. It should be ticketed.
Being too timid can and does cause major accidents. All that is required for a successful merge is an appropriate speed, a good sense of the traffic around you, and a little bit of confidence. It also requires a little bit of cooperation from the highway though.
Have you ever watched an angsty avante-garde movie and experienced that vague, listless, despairing feeling you have afterwards? If you’re an Oblivious Timid Wallower, that’s what YOU do to everyone else, every day. Stop it.
Merge Monsters. Click image to enlarge
But the Oblivious Timid Wallower is only half the problem, or a third of it even. Heck, most OTWs are probably good, gentle, kind people with a warm heart, they’re just a bit too soft. This next mob on the other hand…
Merge Monster No. 2: The Gnarly Snatch Throttle
What is a Gnarly Snatch Throttle? The Gnarly Snatch Throttle is the bitter, enraged grump who darts forward to block any opportunity of merging, purely because it’s “MYYY space!” *foot stomp*
Seeing that the lane to his right will end soon, and realizing that they are not tailgating (for once), the GST will throw their vehicle forward to thwart an attempted merge. The result? Two balked lanes, choking traffic, and the flitter of little red brake lights for kilometres into the distance. Their actions achieve nothing, but only infuriate everyone around them. While the Oblivious Timid Wallower’s crime is one of poor confidence and timidity, the Gnarly Snatch Throttle is about pure aggravation. The Wallower is infuriating in a merge, but probably wonderfully patient with children. The GST has no such redeeming features, their children probably don’t even like them.
If you launch forward to block a merge just because someone might have just used the slip lane to gain a car length or three, you are not a heroic warrior standing up to injustice, you’re just part of the problem.
But let’s not let that slip-lane advantage taker get away with their part….
Merge Monster No.3: The Despicable Sneering Sneak
Nothing derails an otherwise successful zipper merge like the Despicable Sneering Sneak. While the rest of the world is chugging along, learning the lessons of their previous experiences, merging gently, smoothly, efficiently and with minimum disruption to traffic, the DSS is there, snarling, ruing what they see as a waste of perfectly good space.
“Can’t these people see that free lane?!” they screech, not accepting that everybody else has seen the merge point, and taken care of business already. “Well if they won’t use it, I will!”
Actually, the Despicable Sneering Sneak is doing the right thing, as explained by driving experts and our resident traffic engineer.
It might seem rude to you, but actually, the space on the road truly is there to be used. The DSS’s only crime is maybe travelling at excessive speed in the empty lane, but that’s another story.
And so the Despicable Sneering Sneak fires off into the blissfully empty merge lane, accelerating up to hypnotic speeds before smashing their brake pedal in disgust. Foiled again DSS, this slip lane ends here. Now a fight erupts, as a Gnarly Snatch Throttle shoots out to block, scaring an Oblivious Timid Wallower into a dead stop. Now two lanes are blocked, plus the emergency lane, as the DSS has decided to drive on the shoulder in his prolonged battle to get two more spots ahead in line.
Sadly, none of the three see the four-car collision 100 metres back in the queue, caused by their disruption, but never with the results bearing fruit on them. And all for the sake of being at work three minutes earlier.
So please, for the love of all things good and great, look ahead, merge at the same speed as the highway traffic, and give a little bit of room to your fellow travelers making their way onto the highway. Your heart rate will thank you.