01 June 2009

Passing on the right

On this morning's drive to work I encountered one of my on-going pet peeves, the driver who passes on the right. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about passing on the right in light traffic. I'm talking about this: you're driving in moderate to heavy traffic in the left lane, in a line of cars. It's not going as fast as you would like. There appears an opening in the right lane where you might be able to pass the slower left lane traffic, but further up the road a slow poke on the right prevents it.

Still, someone who thinks they are clever, but are really just impatient, bursts out of the pack several cars behind you (perhaps they've been watching too much NASCAR). They're feeling especially clever as they begin to pass car after car. They might even go by you, and increase your level of annoyance at them.

But the cleverness is short-lived. The slow poke in the right lane is forcing the issue, and there are only two realistic outcomes. First, the clever right lane passer can force his way back into the passing lane and pissing off the other drivers. The second outcome is that they reach the slow poke and have to slow down as the line of cars in the passing lane goes past them. This happens because the passing lane cars recognize the clever guy for who he is, and "shut the door" on them. You "shut the door" one of two ways: first by slowly creeping up on the guy in front of you, so that the clever guy literally has no space to force his way in; or second, by passing the slow poke at the time the clever guy gets to him. Either way, the door is shut and the clever guy is stuck, forced to wait and find his way back into the passing lane line.

To a normal person, once the door has been shut on you a few times, you would recognize it for what it is and stop doing it. Apparently, there are enough drivers out there who aren't normal, because not only does it happen a lot, but I've seen the same drivers do it over and over again, on the same trip. In the course of 5 or 10 miles, they've tried to pass on the right multiple times only to have the door shut in their face, over and over again. I'm not the most patient person in the world, but I'm content enough to ride in the passing lane and smirk with a little bit of satisfaction when the door is shut on another clever driver.
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