There are few places where people display their true nature, whether good or bad, as readily as in Chicago traffic. Construction, especially, is the great equalizer of society. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a Tesla or a Yugo—everybody gets treated the same.
After Chicago’s astonishingly chilly winter, the roads look like an m&m cookie that some kid picked all the m&m’s out of. If you steer to dodge one pothole, you’ll hit another. To make up for this, the city of Chicago pulled up several miles of the main tollroad in and out of the city, leaving only one lane in both directions. In a city that hosts hundreds of thousands of commuters every day, this has major consequences.
Curtis (he’s very wonderful) and I left the city last Friday in the middle of rush hour. In the course of the evening, our two hour drive turned into a three-and-a-half hour drive. We sat in stop and go traffic for what felt like a year (I tried to stay awake and Curtis said to me, “I’m sorry the traffic is so boring to you.”), during which time I decided I’m to invest in a private helicopter.
The most fascinating part of the whole procedure was the toll booth. In an effort to keep traffic moving, there were still eight toll lanes open, even though the expressway on either side was only one lane. The traffic fanned out to fill the lanes, and on the far side slowed to a standstill again as eight lanes tried to cram back into one.
You can learn a lot about a person by how they act when they want to be in the same place as every other car on the road.
Some people follow the zipper rule—the “one from the left, one from the right” idea. After letting one car in, they’re sticking like glue to the bumper in front of them. Other drivers (the ones with Texas-sized patience, or just no Friday night plans), will let three or four cars cut in before them. Still another category of folks will pick a car and ride six inches from its bumper. So whenever that car merges they merge right along with it, whether they cut you off or not.
I was reminded of Three Rules for Driving in Chicago Traffic, because what better place is there to foster goodwill than an expressway-turned-parking-lot on a Friday afternoon? Also, life is short—we may as well be nice to the other people on the road, because nobody is enjoying that traffic. (no, this doesn’t mean you have to let 36 cars go in front of you. But if a few slip in before you, it’s probably not the end of the world.)