posted by Joe Anaya on April 30th, 2012

Los Angeles is a car culture. Mainly, because there is no central downtown city, there’s, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, the Westside, etc. So, everybody commutes. And most commutes are pretty long. My current commute takes me 43 miles and 90 minutes to get to work. Even by Los Angeles standards that’s a long commute. I don’t really mind the time in the car. I listen to the radio: sports, alternative rock, or NPR depending on my mood. In the mornings, I’ll call some of my East coast friends or early risers. I’ve checked out the occasional books on tapes. (I had no idea Call of the Wild was about a dog.) I don’t have much problem filling up the time. My biggest problem with the commute (other than simply how long it is) is a moral one. When do I merge into the interchange lanes?

At one interchange, the two merging lanes start to back up quite a ways back. If I get in at that point, which seems the most polite, it takes literally 18 minutes to get to the next freeway (I’ve timed it). Part of the reason for the delay is because the cars are obviously going slower, but the other major problem is all the other cars are cutting in further down the lane.  A lot of other cars. If I’m not on a schedule, I don’t mind waiting, but almost always I’m trying to get to work on time.

The other thought is to get into the lane as late as possible. This is the most efficient, but also the most rude. Like a bully in the lunch line, these cars aggressively nudge their way into the merging lane at the last second, while other cars sit there patiently waiting in the slowed lane. Some people are equally aggressive in their attempt to deny these late mergers room to enter. As the two highways diverge and they’re about to be carried down the wrong stream, often these late mergers will come to a complete stop desperately trying to get in. This creates a back up behind them where there shouldn’t be a back up. I’m told that you can get a ticket for stopping like that, it’s considered a “dangerous lane change.”

What I’ve decided on is this. I don’t get in when it starts backing up. That’s just too long of a wait and too irritating watching all those other less polite cars cutting in front of me. I never wait until the last minute that’s just too fraught with peril, not to mention the possibility of being rear ended by someone who wasn’t expecting to have to stop in the lane that’s not merging. I decided to take my cue from the white lines. They are normal striped white lines way back, they are solid lines near the end, but I’ve noticed that somewhere in between they become a short dotted line. That’s the sweet spot. Some distance after the backup begins but before it starts to get tough. The short dotted lines are my savior. I’m sure the Highway Patrol would agree with my moral compass.


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