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(Dushan Milic for The Globe and Mail)
(Dushan Milic for The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

Beware the creeper on the road Add to ...

It's morning and you are on your way to work. Up ahead. you see a long line of cars waiting to make the same right turn you also need to make. So, you pull into the right lane and wait your turn.

You wait your turn. You wait … your turn.

As you sit idling, contributing to the carbon footprint, a car happily scoots by on your left - it doesn't matter what kind of car it is, but, for argument's sake, let's say it's a grey 2008 Honda Accord Coupe. That car must be going straight through the intersection, you think to yourself, or else its driver would line up like everyone else waiting to turn right.

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Wrong.

The Honda motors past and, just as he approaches the intersection, he flips on his right turn signal and cuts into the right lane almost causing two or three fender benders. He wasn't trying to signal his intent; he was just letting everyone know what he was going to do anyway. The Honda Discord then blissfully turns right and speeds away. The lights change and you are left, steaming and still waiting, for your chance to turn.

You've just encountered that most common of driving species: the creeper.

Creepers view traffic manners as inconvenient hurdles meant for other drivers to obey. The creeper counts on one thing and one thing only - that you won't smash into him as he executes his rude and often illegal road tricks.

Had the Honda guy tried strolling past and cutting in front of a line of 40 people at the movies you would have had to take a number in order to get your turn punching him in the face. Few folks - UFC fighters and orthopedic surgeons excepted - are brave enough to try such a stunt in public.

But creepers, like other forms of insects, rely on their hard shells for protection. Of course, that's the trip when it comes to automobiles. People pull plenty of rude, outrageous moves when they are clad in their rolling suits of climate-controlled armour.

Few of us would stop on a sidewalk and spew a string of expletives at a passerby who came close to bumping into us. Yet such behaviour is common in automobiles. Boundaries and politeness are things that disappear quite quickly. Thus lush interiors do make cowards of us all.

Of all our car-born transgressions, however, cutting in line is the most widespread. Every second or every minute somewhere, some idiot is butting in line. What's most infuriating is that they so often get away with it. Folks either let them in or stall them off, causing even more problems.

Every so often, a creeper gets caught in the act. These are moments to relish. I recently saw the ultimate creeper move end in sweet justice. This fellow had tried to cut in but been shut down, so he simply attempted to perform a "left right" and turn right from the left lane around a car that was already turning right. All was well for a moment and then the crackle of metal and plastic crunching filled the air.

The cars stopped and the creeper emerged from his sedan. He was utterly at fault. He knew it. Everyone on the curb watching knew it. The guy he hit knew it - he was happily taking photos for insurance (no doubt imagining all the repairs he could now do).

You could see the creeper doing the math in his head. This was going to cost him. All his misdeeds were coming down on his head. Someone, whose voice sounded a lot like mine, shouted, "Way to go, loser!" It was a lovely way to end a hot summer night.

Should we never cut in line? Never say never.

Occasionally this sort of action is called for, but if you are going to pull it, you better give the "Wave."

Here's how you cut in with some honour. You get the other guy's attention and, doing your best Marcel Marceau, you mime "Please let me in."

Personally, if I am going to try and cut in, I like to throw in a pleading shrug, the kind that got Pierre Elliott Trudeau out of all those jams.*

If the other driver is in a good mood or just collecting karma, he lets you in. Then you give him the "wave." That's the thank you. If you do not give the wave, you are a selfish brute and you are contributing to the demise of traffic flow.

What's the difference between a last-minute merge and a creep? Intent. The creeper was never going to wait his turn.

When it comes to traffic flow, the rules are clear. If every driver allows one automobile to merge in front of him, traffic will flow. Failure to follow this code will result in stoppages and slower traffic.

I'd say, "Look, it's basic common courtesy," but in today's world that has no meaning. Courtesy? That's an alien concept. You may as well travel back to 1759 and try explaining Internet porn to Voltaire. The guy would just scratch his wig and say, "Why don't you just have sex with a person? They're everywhere."

Creepers are a modern pestilence. We will never be free of them but if we are vigilant we can keep the incidence of creeping down to a minimum.

* Ex-prime minister joke count now at 2 for 2010.

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