The pros and cons of using the a$$hole lane
I have a confession to make: I use the asshole lane. What's that? Well, when a sign announces that, for example, the left lane ends in 1,000 feet, drivers are supposed to immediately move right. But especially when traffic is backed up, I stay in the other lane until just about the point when it disappears, passing lots of other vehicles in the process. I call it "the asshole lane." I'm starting to rethink my strategy, though, after nearly getting into two accidents in as many days -- in part because I encountered a pair of fellow assholes. I'm not sure which of us was bigger, but it was probably me.
As a native of Grand Junction, I never used the asshole lane during my formative driving years. But then I moved to Los Angeles, where traffic frequently devolves into a form of post-apocalyptic combat that would make Mad Max bawl like a colicky premie.
After months of watching other drivers use the asshole lane, thereby shaving considerable chunks of time off their mind-numbing commutes, I began to do likewise and found that the asshole lane had become part of the SoCal driving culture. Drivers expected people to stay in disappearing lanes for as long as possible, and their preparation made merges a relatively safe and orderly process, with only occasional exceptions. And the results got everyone to their respective destinations faster -- or so I told myself.
The same proved true the year I spent going to Northwestern in Chicago. But upon moving to Denver, I discovered that the asshole lane is less accepted here. I still used it when the need arose, but I was likelier to be thanked for my efforts with the shake of a head or a fist by those who watched me roar past them than I ever was in L.A. or Chi-town.
A Colorado Department of Transportation photo from 6th Avenue at Knox Court earlier this year.
Still, I persisted, and my use of the asshole lane generally seemed like no big deal -- until last week.
My commute home takes me through the westbound 6th Avenue construction zone, where the entrance to the highway is reduced to one lane in what promises to be a horrific mess for months to come. But when I attempted to use the asshole lane on Friday, a fifty-something woman to the right kept zooming up and zooming up to the cut-off point -- and then, instead of letting me in, she zoomed again, nearly clipping my front fender. And then, on Monday, another woman of a similar vintage did the exact same thing, all the while staring straight ahead with homicidal determination.
Once the merge was completed and we got onto the highway, both women moved into the fast lane and maintained a steady forty miles per hour or so, causing an even more unnecessary jam that forced others to swerve around them at a risk to everyone in the vicinity. Definite asshole behavior in my book.
Then again, I'd clearly provoked them by using the asshole lane in a way that's standard procedure in at least two major American cities, but not in this one. And after years of trying to import the technique, I'm afraid I may have to leave it behind once and for all.
Of course, I can't guarantee how firm my resolve will be on the ride home tonight....
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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