Originally posted Aug. 13, 2017.
“On my way home that same night, I was stopped in a left-turn-only lane at an intersection when I remembered I needed to swing by the drugstore. My first instinct? Dart to the right when the light changes and just go straight. I glanced over my right shoulder to see if the path was clear and spotted a little car beside my slightly more muscular Honda CR-V.
That’s when it hit me like an inflating air bag: I am a Masshole.”
— Stacey Myers, “A Mass. native tries to stop driving like one,” Boston Globe Magazine
I have a standard comparison between drivers in New York (my home state), Connecticut (my wife’s home state) and Massachusetts (where we live now).
I say New York drivers are the best (referring to upstate and my own bias), Connecticut cars are guided missiles in that they are fast but generally go in the direction they are pointed and Massachusetts cars are unguided missiles because you never know what direction they’re heading.
Yet even though there are apparently statistics saying Boston drivers are the worst, there’s plenty to get you angry no matter where you drive. For instance, we first noticed the close relative of changing lanes without signaling — people speeding up when you do signal — in Arizona and California.
What did we do? We stopped signaling; that’s what we did. (When in Rome …)
Myers writes that she didn’t cut off someone at the light, but the anecdote shows that there’s something about driving — whether it’s the seeming security of sitting in a large metal vehicle, frustration over sitting in traffic, knowing that no one will actually hear you scream — that can turn us into the people we hate.
* * * * *
On any list of horrible feats of engineering, maybe the next level below rotaries (which are as ubiquitous in Massachusetts as Dunkin’ Donuts) and New Jersey’s turn-right-to-go-left jughandles, is a diabolical bit of roadwork here in Massachusetts known as the Braintree Split.
Pictured at the top of the post with far less traffic than on an average weekday (you can see where I got the picture from here), it combines the traffic-clogging effects of multiple busy roadways coming together in the same place with dropping lanes for little to no good reason.
The picture is of what I used to confront on the way home from work, a roughly 40-mile drive that usually took about 90 minutes. My lane was going Route 3 South toward Cape Cod, but the backups to get to that point usually stretched for a couple miles.
Before the split into Route 3 going north and south, the highway was four or five lanes wide, and the ones toward Route 3 North were always open.
This left two choices for my afternoon commute —
Sit in traffic until I could make the turn toward home.
Go around the line of cars in the left lanes headed toward Route 3 North.
I chose Option 2. Of course, I didn’t actually want to go north into Boston, so I was going to have to get back in line somewhere.
It meant the mental balancing act of “How much ground can I gain if I keep going?” versus “At what point have I gone too far and can’t get back in?”
I never actually did get trapped, as I mostly had the good sense to, after a certain point, dive into the nearest opening, and there always was one.
It’s the same type of behavior you see coming up to lane drops, particularly for construction … the people who go as far as they can before they have no choice but to merge.
But here’s the thing … I loathe people who do that.
I curse them when I see it, screaming about how a — holes like that are making the traffic my car is sitting in because my wife or I had the good sense to get where we were supposed to worse. (Note from 2019: These people were ranked way too low.)
Yet for the better part of a year, I did it five days a week. Of course, I rationalized it, saying I would have gotten home another 15 to 20 minutes later every night if I didn’t.
But really, I was just being a Masshole.