Carma

I got stuck in traffic the other day. Sitting there at a complete standstill, and at a loss for anything better to do, I started counting carpool lane cheater. At one point six singly-occupied vehicles in a row zoomed past me.

Apparently they’ve just given up on HOV lane enforcement. I don’t really blame them, considering the number of violators. And, in a way, it’s kind of nice that all the aggressive drivers self-select themselves out of traffic and into the HOV lane. But, still, the Department of Transportation ought to do something.

That’s why I propose they simply rename the HOV lane the “Asshole Lane.” That more accurately describes its contents now anyway. Furthermore, drivers should have to apply a bumper sticker reading “I AM AN ASSHOLE” to their SUVs to indicate that they are an authorized user of the lane.

It will be nice to have all the assholes clearly labelled. And hey: if we can get them all into a single lane, those of us in regular traffic will only have to contend with, like, a dozen cars on our morning commute.

Speaking of which …

Last week on the freeway I got stuck behind one of the few idiots not in the asshole lane. Indeed, he was in the far right lane, and since I intended to take the next exit I had no choice but to follow him. The guy was in a pickup, travelling about 15 miles per hour under the speed limit, and completely preoccupied with something other than driving. He kept leaning way over to the right, so far down that I couldn’t even see his head anymore, as if he were reading fine print off of a clipboard lying on the seat next to him, or giving a blowjob to his imaginary passenger. During these periods he would drift wildly, and when he occasionally popped his head back up he would abruptly wrestle the vehicle back into his lane before disappearing again.

As we reached the off-ramp he again began to drift rightward, well out his lane. In fact, he was heading straight for the median between the freeway and the exit. In my mind’s eye I could see him slamming into the barrier at his oh-so-pokey 40 MPH and I was thrilled at the image.

Then I snapped out of my reverie and reached for my horn to warn him, just as his head popped up and he frantically jerked the truck to the left, missing the median by a couple of feet.

But, still: totally wishing death on some guy because he’d added forty seconds to my commute.

Dude, what’s up with that? And I know that’s not the first time I’ve felt The Evil creeping up on me in the middle of rush hour.

What is it about traffic turns us into rageaholic bastards? Or does it just trick us into revealing our true selves? Suzanne Necker once said “fortune does not change men; it unmasks them.” Maybe the same is true of Interstate 90.

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48 comments.

  1. “carma” starts with a K,last time i checked.

  2. I thought the SUV WAS the asshole indicator.

  3. …And here I thought you still rode the bus to work!

  4. “carma” might start with a “K”, but then it would no longer be a “witty” comment on asshole drivers of kars.

  5. Bob! You made my day, seriously, that retort was at least as funny as poohed missing the point (and misspelling poohed, unless I am missing the point there?!).

    We don’t have car pool lanes here in Oh Canada, but I have seen enough moving pictures to gather that they are highly abused, though I was under the impression that people used some sort of stand in for a co-occupant. Is this true? Common? Or a silly joke to fool us northern types?

  6. How about calling it the “Poop Chute”?

  7. Amen on the carpool lane being the asshole lane! How many times I;’ve sat on the 520 vridge counting those assholes going by, always in their SUVs. Gah!!! Perhaps we can get a petition and make it happen? :)

  8. Ok, so I’ve just realized that it’s likely you and I work for the same company. I’d noticed occasionally referrers from your group’s IP coming to my website from your log…and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to put it together.
    Even better is the fact that if this is the case, the building you guys just moved to is about a block from my apartment. This is such a small town.

  9. I think that being trapped in a small space without a viable out makes most people a bit grouchy, if not out-and-out rage-aholics. Perhaps that’s why people in SUVs seem to drive blithely along– they have more space. When I’m walking, I can take a detour, dart into a coffee-shop or simply retrace my steps after deciding that the sidewalk traffic is too much for me to deal with. I don’t have as much leeway in a car.

    Most common utterances in the car (with a toddler in the back-seat):

    1)Come ON, people.
    2)The light is GREEN. It’s GREEN.

    Everything else is just too rude to repeat.

  10. Similar story: When stuck in a huge crawling tailback on the way into town and desperately wondering how long it

  11. “The Evil.” You thought of a word for it. That’s perfect: The Evil. I have succumbed to The Evil when walking. When someone was walking to slow in front of me…it’s not just a car thing.

    Basically, sitting in the backseat while parents drive is how toddlers master the curseword lexicon. One of my baby sister’s first words was the ‘f’ word during a crosstown trip.

    {Lung–Uh oh. My dream is to live in Spain. But I am wimpish and safety obsessed. So maybe it’s not going to work after all.)

  12. Hey Matt,
    if it makes you feel any better, I-90 (aka, the Mass Pike) sucks out on the east coast, too. It’s full of of Massholes.

  13. I’ve heard that in California the far right hand lane is called the ‘smoking lane’. This is the lane where all the paranoid pot-heads creep along at 30 miles per hour in hopes that they won’t attract the attention of the law.

    If you were in CA, I’d guess that the guy was leaning over to take hits off his bong. :-)

  14. Lung: regarding Spanish drivers, the first (and only) time I visited Madrid, a fiend of mine wondered aloud, “Is there even a formal set of traffic regulations that these people ignore?”

  15. Cops should just throw the spike strips in front of HOV cheaters. Unless of course, it’s an SUV. Then they should use their guns. I bet the cops would start lining up for traffic patrol duty if we allowed that.
    What? Oh yeah, Evil and Rage are bad. Sorry, ignore my post.

    Besides, I’m sure most of the “cheaters” you all so quickly judge actually have a passenger asleep in the back seat. Yeah, that’s it! That or a dead hooker in the trunk (do those count?).

  16. I don’t think they ever intended to enforce the HOV lane. They just painted it in to get some kind of highway subsidy, and now it’s one of those rules that’s “honored only in the breach.”

    There’s a HOV lane coming in to Hartford on 91 (from the north) and 84 (from the east) but I’ve seldom, if ever, actually seen anyone in it, legally or not.

  17. Have you ever noticed The Evil creep up on you in unexpected places where there is a multitude of stupid people – like – say for instance – Wal-Mart, Costco, The Amusement Park….

    EVIL – it’s not just for commuters anymore!!

    BTW SUV’s are definatly asshole indicators – or in my considered Bellevue / Eastside opinion – B*TCH indicators

    There should be a law against
    1 – Stupid People Breeding (WOBO’s : Waste Of Breathable Oxygen)
    2 – Small Petite Women driving HUGE SUV’s
    3 – Large Overweight Men driving small compact cars
    4 – Assholes in the HOV lane

    …Wait – maybe that last one is a law ….*Sigh*

  18. Believe it or not, one of my part-time jobs before Amazon was working for the Texas State Department of Transportation. We’d drive around in the HOV lane during rush hour, pushing a button on our thumbtop computer every time we passed certain landmarks. At the time, there were very few violators and in fact, there were more people who could’ve been in the HOV lane who chose to drive in the bachelor lanes. I’m afraid Seattle has been invaded by Californians.

  19. In MN they added a one of those easy-pass tolls to the HOV lane to allow the asshole drivers to pay for the privilege of driving alone. Not surprisingly, it has totally backfired and no one is using the HOV lane now, and it hasn’t reduced congestion on the regular lanes.

  20. Yup, MadMonkey, you feel my pain. In Latin countries

  21. You read my mind, or I read yours… I suspect this is a nationwide epidemic.

  22. The best solution I’ve found is to have pencil and paper handy. When you see in your side view mirror that a cheater is coming, write down their licencse plate and make and model of car. Then there’s a handy website you can enter that information too. Whether it does any good or not, it does feel like vindication and RETRIBUTION!

  23. I got tired enough of people following too close that I adjusted one of my windshield washer sprayers to shoot over the top of my van. If someone is too close, I give them a squirt.

    I was in the slow lane on a three-lane highway — in very light traffic — and had a two older ladies on my bumper. I gave them the squirt and they dropped back only to creep up on me again. I gave them another squirt. They dropped back and eventually passed me.

    I’m not saying it’s right. But I tried that wishing-death-on-people thing and, like others here, felt bad about it.

  24. I believe George Carlin said it best:
    1. Ever notice how anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?

    2. You’ll never truly learn to curse until you start driving.

  25. For what it’s worth, you’d probably have counted me as a cheater – but I only use the HOV lane when I have my daughter in her car seat in the back, where you wouldn’t have seen her.

  26. As with the website – there is also a phone number to call in the Seattle / Metro area to report HOV violators
    206-764-HERO.

    Not only do you feel like you are getting vindication but you get to go around calling yourself a HERO all day long – What a deal!

    Only downside is that you have to follow the idiot violator long enough to get license / make and model / and color of the car along with a bunch of other info and you have to use one of those damn automated voice activated message thing-a-majiggers…

  27. The DOT should do something, I agree. And, given the impending gas crisis, they should make the “Diamond Lane” (what we call it down here in California) the “Hybrid Car” lane–rewarding those who save gas.

  28. Hmm… My psychiatrist told me (AFTER prescribing Xanax) to tell passengers in my car that my road rage was doctor prescribed road rage. He wanted to know “If you can’t get angry with truly stupid people who are failing to control large, fast moving and potentially deadly weapons, who CAN you get angry with?”

  29. Why not just add a 2million dollar system? Government could save 5million on state-funded phyciatric help.

    This system would be a little transmitter you can have in your car, if you are a regular carpooler. (registered). When you’re in the lane, you turn it on. If it’s off, or if you don’t have a transmitter, cameras take a picture of your contorted maniac-agered face in the SUV windshield and mail it to you with a “bill”.

  30. I just take down their info and report them:

    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/HOV/violatorform/default.htm

  31. I succumb to The Evil frequently, especially on Westbound 520. Except I’m 6 months pregnant, so I think I’m a little more Evil than the average Jane.

  32. Some of my greatest childhood moments in the 50’s was learning the cursing art while driving with the father around Northern New Jersey – especially when Mom wasn’t in the car.

  33. Did it occur to you that the driver of that pickup may have been trying to keep a kidnapped victim from popping up or opening the car door?

  34. I think you must have been stuck behind my dad. Believe me, we’re trying not to let him out anymore.

  35. Yeah, Melissa, my dad is the most frustratingly slow driver I know too. The only comfort is that we know he’ll never knock anyone over. He might ‘push’ a few people over but ‘knock’, never.

  36. “What is it about traffic turns us into rageaholic bastards?”
    Cars don’t have human faces. You can’t make eye contact.
    That’s the social reason for road rage, and that Evil is probably not creeping when you’re on the sidewalk… :)

  37. When people form any sort of line of movement (be it at the movie theater, the store or on a freeway) the tension begins. Are they cutting in front? Pushing? Why are they letting someone else in ahead of me!?

    The difference is that on the road a 5’2″ housewife can become a faceless Hummer H2 or guy who sweats eating a sandwhich becomes a dark window tinted import racer. These face off against the good natured drivers who uphold the rules of the road.

    So there it is: we are all actually transformers and it’s a never-ending battle for supremacy on the open road.

  38. did you see the David Foster Wallace – Commencement Speech that kottke linked to? he delves into the rage of traffic.

  39. man i’m dumb, can’t believe i didn’t catch that. jeeze.

  40. And, given the impending gas crisis, they should make the “Diamond Lane” (what we call it down here in California) the “Hybrid Car” lane–rewarding those who save gas.

    That would be a great idea if the purpose of the HOV lane were to save gas. Unfortunately, the purpose of the HOV lane is to reduce congestion by giving people an incentive to carpool or take public transit, thereby reducing the average amount of road space required by a passenger. Driving a hybrid vehicle doesn’t reduce congestion in itself because hybrids are the same size as any other vehicle.

  41. I hate when you’re legitimately in the carpool lane and the person in front of you (also legitimately in it) feels the need to drive slower than the speed limit. GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE LANE!!!! Errrr, excuse the language.

  42. In a fairly similar vein, you might want to check this site: http://www.tardsite.com/index.htm

    The Atlanta Roadway Digest. Wish it was still up and running, but it has a few gems in the ‘Tard of the Month worth checking out.

  43. Just to possibly make you feel a little better…

    I was flagged down by a police officer for being a single in the HOV lane. But I wasn’t. I had both my sons in the car with me. They were just both sitting in the back seat.

    So maybe one or two of those folks are like me. Who knows? Maybe all of them. Okay, probably not.

    Houston, TX HOV, btw

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  45. How funny! I just began my own, “pointing out the asshole cheaters” routine as I head north on the express lanes out of Seattle every evening. Truly, the number of cheaters is mind-boggling. I simply roll down my window and point, like I’ve just seen a cow on the side of the road. I’m sure it doesn’t do a lick of good, but for some odd reason I feel better. As for whether or not the lanes are for gas mileage or reducing congestion, I don’t think those are mutually exclusive goals. And since motorcycles are permitted in the lanes, it seems as though saving gas is a priority. Personally, I would like to see a study that shows HOV lanes actually help traffic. I have a sneaking suspicion that they add to the problem. If you’ve ever been stuck behind a bunch of idiots frantically changing lanes to get to the HOV side, then frantically heading back to the right side for their exit, it’s difficult to see how this speeds things along. Seems as though it brings traffic to a halt, and me to the brink of induction into the Vulgarity Hall of Fame.

  46. I hate when you’re legitimately in the carpool lane and the person in front of you (also legitimately in it) feels the need to drive slower than the speed limit. GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE LANE!!!! Errrr, excuse the language

    I feel your pain. But what scares me is passing a line of cars doing 5 mph while I’m doing 60 mph. Then one of the assholes decides they’re tired of doing 5 and pulls out into the carpool lane in front of me. Even at a good distance ahead, they’re essentially at standstill relative to my speed.

    So, in stretches like approaching the 520 bridge from the eastside where I know I’m only going to have carpool advantage for a mile or less, I rarely do 60 when the real traffic is stop and go. You only have to nearly plow into somebody once or twice before you get paranoid.

  47. It’s the utter lack of control. You can’t even honk because they might consider it to be a shootin’ offense.

    And there is NOTHING EVIL in wondering if some poor asshole is gonna win himself a Darwin Award.

    And my most common utterance in the car?

    “HEADLIGHTS, Douchebag!!!”

  48. I live in Canada. We have HOV lanes. I don’t think they’re abused all that much.

    Except for that one time there was a guy who tried to get away with having a dog as his passenger. He got pulled over. We laughed.