Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why Johnny Can't Merge

I'm fascinated by quantum mechanics and quarks and the grand unified theory and all that sort of thing, but I don't have a good grasp on it by a long shot. I'm always getting science books from QPBC and reading along happily until I get to some concept like string theory, and at that point my mind just shuts down. They'll have some picture of a curved universe in there to help folks like me, but it normally just makes me go "Wha?"

It's frustrating. I want to get it, but I'm not there yet.

I know there are probably thousands of people who can't comprehend string theory. But I also know there are that many and more who can't comprehend the proper way to merge onto the freeway in the morning, because these freakin geniuses always end up right in front of me.

Here's the set-up: Every morning I get on eastbound I-235 (the freeway that cuts through the middle of the Des Moines metro area) at 8th Street in West Des Moines. The next eastbound exit is 63rd Street in Des Moines, a good quarter-mile away, maybe more. The lane that brings you on at 8th is the same one that takes you off at 63rd; in other words, there's no point where you have to merge into traffic and then get back off.

Which, in my opinion, is a pretty convenient way of doing things. For one reason, it gives people that full quarter-mile in which to find a place to merge. And just in case anyone needs a refresher course, merging requires a driver to adjust his or her speed in order to ease into traffic smoothly.

"Smoothly" is the operative word there. When traffic doesn't go smoothly, accidents happen. And when the highway department is kind enough to give you a quarter-mile of merging room, there's really no excuse for not merging smoothly into traffic.

But try explaining that to the endless parade of chuckleheads who think they have to jump right into traffic at the very top of the 8th Street on-ramp. Good lord, you'd think Godzilla or the Grim Reaper was standing in their way. Some of these clowns are making right-angle turns into the eastbound traffic (which is usually creeping along when I'm heading to work, so yes, there are people going east who will actually stop and let the idiots in).

Right-angle turns aren't smooth, folks. Neither is coming to a complete stop at the top of the on-ramp and waiting for someone to let you in while 15 cars come to a halt behind you and a quarter-mile of pavement sits empty in front of you.

Pass the word.

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