Tony Woodlief | Author

Driving III: Brake Not, Lest Ye Be Beaten

Okay, about the exit and entry ramp. We all face the challenge of adjusting to those around us. Some of us, like the Unabomber, fail miserably. Others, like Regis Philbin, are annoyingly good at it. Still others, like Dick Clark, or my own child Caleb, adjust nary a bit, but let the world mold itself to them. These are the golden children, happy and oblivious.

But for most of us, there is some change required from time to time. Some modification of our habits. A curbing of our wants. An acceptance of demands placed upon us. This is the nature of living in civilized society.

What this means in particular for those of you attempting to join freeway travelers by way of an entry ramp, is that sometimes you just have to slow down and wait.

Stop right there. You, in the back, the one who thinks he knows something about driving, the one getting ready to assert that people entering the highway need to accelerate, for crying out loud, not slow down. You know who you are. Shut your piehole and listen for a minute.

Of course acceleration is necessary, when there is space. But acceleration is foolish and wrong — yes, wrong — when it slings you up next to a line of cars, some of which are trying to exit. In that circumstance, dear driver, it is incumbent upon you to adjust your speed so that you slip in behind the people exiting.

Otherwise, there is chaos. A free-for-all. The red tooth and claw of primitive man comes rushing to the surface, and we are once again thrown back into the state of nature after the Fall but before toilet paper.

Entry-ramp protocol is one of the most difficult skills to understand and master, so you are forgiven if you’ve spent thirty years cursing at people exiting in front of you while you try to accelerate into traffic. Mend your ways, go forth and sin no more. The yield sign is there for a reason. Look it up.

And now for you muddleheaded do-gooders who think you are doing your fellow man a good turn by slowing down so he can enter the freeway. Look in your rearview mirror. See all those people behind you? Do you know what they do when they see you hit your brakes? They brake. Do you know what that causes a half-mile back? A seemingly random braking, which in turn causes a panicked overreaction, which results in an accident. Like many people in the world, you may think you are helping your fellow man, but in reality you are inflicting damage. You’re like Greenpeace, or one of those mothers who always cleans up after her kids.

Save it for the UNICEF can. Keep your altruistic foot off the brake and drive. Better yet, if you don’t need to exit, get out of the bloody right lane. But be sure to stay out of the left lane, because some of us have places to be. You are a middle-lane driver, my friend, the one who reports 12 hours before the election that he still hasn’t made up his mind, the one who always chooses “5” on a ten-point scale, the one who voted for Clinton but never really liked him, the one who thinks we ought to reform things but for heaven’s sake be really careful about it. You go to bed by 11pm and you like Leno. It’s okay. Just stay in your middle lane, and nobody has to get hurt.

But step on that brake to let one more driver onto the highway, and there’s going to be trouble.

On Key

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