The Fine Art Of The Two-Lane Left TurnPosted: December 14, 2009
Or: What’s Mine Is Mine And What’s Yours Is Mine, Too
I’m coming to a slow civilized stop on the top of my exit’s off-ramp. It’s a two-lane. The right lane is for right turners and also serves as the outside left turn lane, and the left lane turns left onto a two-lane highway. You know, a standard multi-lane Interstate exit ramp, complete with traffic light. I’ve started using the outside lane at intersections like these, because I feel it’s safer although not nearly as much fun than the inside lane. Today, this theory of mine is proven faulty, at least partially.
I’m sitting there, waiting for the light to change. The lanes are filling up behind me. To my left is this huge white Ford F-350 extended cab, full-sized pickup truck. I think nothing of it, just take notice, since I can’t see anything to my left. Next to him I feel like a little kid on a mini-bike. The light changes, and since I can’t see anything I let the pickup move first, then I ease out into the intersection preparing to turn left. By the time we’re in the middle of the turn, I am leaned over and in the process of accelerating out, when I notice that monster of a truck fading into my lane. Holy shit! I have nowhere to go. There are cars behind me, cars behind him. I’m still in first, on the gas, and leaned over. If neither of us files a change in flight plans, my head and left shoulder are going to say hello to his passenger-side door. I’m searching for an out. Obviously a panic stop is out of the question, since the guy behind me is going to hump my rear, even if I had the room to straighten out the bike and lay on the skids. I could maybe slow enough and swerve left to squeak past the F-350’s rear end and the following car? Nope, no time nor room for that, and I might become a speed bump for the person who’s directly behind Mr. I-Need-Your-Lane-Too. As I straighten up the bike and let myself fade wide to stay out of the pickup’s path, hoping he’ll see me in time and cut back over into his lane, my frantically searching eyes momentarily lock onto the opposing edge of the road. There is the 4-foot wall of the bridge, with it’s obligatory suicide fence mounted on top, and the curb. Well, at least if I high-side into that I won’t get thrown over the bridge. In my mind’s eye, I see not my life flashing before my eyes, but the image of a cat stuck to a screen door. I want to puke, but all I can do is giggle at the image. I’m not scared (that usually comes later, when I’m out of the danger zone), I’m in this weird state where everything slows to a crawl. I’m in fight-or-flight time-lapse mode. Then I see it, as I’m still fascinated by the curb and my imaginary cat sliding down the imaginary screen door. The little guy on a bicycle, wearing what looks to be a dǒu lì (but is supposed to be a helmet), painted between two solid white lines. The newly added bicycle path. We make fun of this iconic dude of Chinese origin every time we come through here in the cage. Of course! I have found my out! And just in time, too, since the pickup is now very, VERY close. He’s invading my bubble, my personal space. I gotta get out of here and fast. I straighten out more, aim for the edge of the curb then throw The Fat Lady back to the left and twist it. I don’t know how close I came to being clipped by his front end. But I see him, in my mirror, now fully over in –what used to be — my lane, skirting the solid white line that marks the division between the car lane and the narrow lane dedicated to bicycles. I’m still in first gear, and The Fat Lady is roaring, I shift into second, not bothering with the clutch lever. I turn around to give dude the finger, I can’t help myself (I know, I know), and notice he has already – get this! — changed lanes again and is back over on the left. WTF??? I don’t know why, but now I’m pissed. If you wanted my lane this badly, at least you could give me the common courtesy of staying in it! You jackass! When I turn back around, I find myself practicing maximum-effort braking, since the light on the other side of the overpass has decided to inconveniently turn red. I come to a front-end diving squeaky stop at the line, in first gear, with both feet on the ground, with the lane-hogging bastard parked next to me. I give him THE LOOK, the entire time we’re sitting there I stare him down. I imagine smoke coming out of my ears and death-rays shooting from my eyes. When the light changes I give her hell and have a difficult time keeping the front end down. Damn. I must be pissed, because I can’t do that on purpose. I guess under normal non-road-raged circumstances my mind overrides the impulse of the wrist.
Same type of off-ramp/multi-lane road interchange. Same Interstate. Different exit. I’m on the inside left turn lane. A car is waiting to my right in the outside lane. The light changes to green. We both go, but apparently I must be slower than usual, since the car manages to overtake me and cuts directly in front of me. This isn’t a matter of inattention; this seems to be a deliberately executed lane change in the middle of the turn. Wow. I’m still musing on how this could have possibly happened. They must have really punched it. Pedal to the metal. Good gawd! No time to think. I briefly get on the brakes, as I straighten up, to scrub off a little speed and throw the Fat Lady into a right-hand swerve. I clear the car’s rear bumper (hmmm, Richmond County tags), then immediately push hard left. The Fat Lady responds to my input like an obese Tango dancer: slow to get started but graceful and precise in execution. We barely make it and are in the clear, now in the outside lane. Damn! Wrestling a ‘Busa around like this reminds me: I have to start going to the gym and hit the weights. I pace the car for a moment, looking at the driver. A Blonde, be-bopping to whatever is playing on her stereo, lost in her own little world. She looks at me, with a bemused expression, vague. She doesn’t even have the obligatory cell phone glued to her ear. I suppose the stereo is distraction enough. One has to know one’s limitations. Instead of indicating to her, that I think she’s No. 1, I simply shrug, lifting both hands up in the air in a WTF? gesture; then I get the hell out of Dodge at an accelerated pace, like I am apt to do after an ‘incident’. Frakkin’ people in this town don’t know how to drive.
Is A Good Offense The Best Defense?
I don’t know what it is that is so difficult about staying in your own lane. All you have to do is follow the little dashed line, and it’ll guide your automobile nicely around the curve and dump you onto your merry way. But no, your brain’s blocked or you simply don’t care. It is really getting tiresome. I tried the inside lane, I’ve tried the outside lane. There’s only one thing that I’ve found works to stay out of possible trouble: You have got to stay one step ahead of the lane-stealing cager crowd. Since they can’t catch up with a motorcycle, or outmaneuver one, it’s probably safest to just get the hell out of there before they even have the chance to roll over the stop line. And that’s a ton of fun, too. Just stay in the outside lane, in case you lose it… See, who says you can’t be a little bit squidly and be safe all at the same time? =P