Have you heard of a zipper merge, while driving?
If not, this is when there is a line of cars trying to merge into traffic (or two lanes merging into one lane), the traffic and merging cars alternate one after the other; much like how a zipper works, each tooth alternating to form one zipped line. Many driving schools teach it and yours likely did.
I cannot recall if my school taught it (in Illinois we had fewer highways), I only remember learning from people I drove with the opposite behavior: frustration with someone who was trying to merge into my lane that I had been driving in all this time. “Merge behind me! Screw up someone else’s morning drive!” I would think. I would get seriously offended when someone used the entire lane to merge into my lane, rather than merging earlier. “They saw the signs that said, ‘merge ahead,’ they should have merged sooner,” and armed with this self-righteous indignation, I would aggressively refuse to let someone merge ahead of me, often riding the bumper of the car in front of me.
We have all been there. We have all been the one driving or riding in a car that was trying to merge into a lane, and someone refused to let us in. And we have all been driving or riding in the car in the main lane frustrated that someone seemingly gets to “cut” the line we were (im)patiently stuck in–longer than they. Or maybe we ever so nicely let one or even two cars in a different merging lane earlier and so we paid our dues, now this new car in this new lane is just going to have to wait until someone else nicer comes along to let them in—or they must bully themselves in. But if we all just performed the zipper merge, one after the other, traffic would move so much faster for everyone, even if it puts us, personally, eight (8) feet further back than we would have been originally.
When I reflect on this—daily—on whatever drive I am on and I inevitably must let someone merge in front of me or rely on someone else to let me merge in front of them; I think about how the act of driving, and specifically merging, is a great metaphor for life. How we are all eternally traveling somewhere with other people who need to move with us. Which is why we should always wish and work for a better life for those coming after us, even if it may not benefit ourselves personally. Climate change, income inequality, racism, disability inequality… the list goes on. It’s all about sharing space with others, often putting others before ourselves, and recognizing that while we may have “paid our dues” in some fight previously, we are all on the highway of life and there’s constantly a new fight—a new lane, a new group of cars merging.
And if we all just behaved with a pinch of kindness then maybe we will all move in the right direction just a little bit faster.
P.S. Remember, construction is always a necessary evil we all must deal with!
My thoughts while merging travel much as yours do. I tend to yield. However on one occasion we were stuck in traffic due to an accident ahead. Impatient drivers behind us began trying to sneak through using the shoulder which was the only possible way for an ambulance to get through the backup. We were in our motorhome so I pulled part way into the shoulder just enough to block the sneakers, watching the ambulance lights struggling up in my rear view mirror. When it got close, I pulled back into the traffic lane which half of my rig was still in. The ambulance got through and we were all moving again in a few more minutes. That memory helps in times when the crazies are loose, to think what can I do to help. Good reflection Hannah.
Hannah Nelson (Author)
Gail, thank you for this story. I have done the exact same thing in the past.
Thanks for this reflection: “if we all just performed the zipper merge, one after the other, traffic would move so much faster for everyone…
… we should always wish and work for a better life for those coming after us, even if it may not benefit ourselves personally. Climate change, income inequality, racism, disability inequality… the list goes on.
There is a lot of merit in what you say, but I think there are sometimes problems with it. I am offering the suggestion that “it’s complicated.” My wife could tell you that after taking high school Driver Education in 1957 she still hears me constantly say: “That’s not the way they taught it in driver education.” On the highway of life some people are more competent than others. When we negotiate the highways we sometimes encounter situations that do not fit the “standard” rules. We need to consider “What is the best (loving) thing to do in each situation?” Following the “letter of the law” and/or not having the competence to understand the situation sometimes makes things worse.
I come from a gentler place. We were taught courtesy driving. Drivers Ed didn’t exist back in the day., so it was the values of our teacher, usually a parent, that taught the lesson. Living in a large metropolitan area is different. I am not a tailgater, so the space I leave between my car and the one ahead allows folks to merge in front of me. This occurs over and over again, which is sometimes annoying, but can’t be helped. Zipper merge is a new term for me. Thanks for your excellent reflection.
Charles “Scotty” Scott
Time for merging
Life is like this road.
In all weather,
Lessens each one’s load!