Apartment Renting Today

The Zipper Merge

You’re probably thinking that the so-called “Zipper Merge” of latent television commercial fame isn’t exactly a rental or leasing topic. You’re probably right about that. But I justify my selection with the thinking that those of us exercising our apartment living option as human beings are also busy professionals, and so we’re required to hit the road to get to work. And if you’re driving to work, then you’re dealing with merging – probably multiple times during your commute.

Plus, having recently followed the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) advice (and insistence that it’s more time effective for everyone) by converting to the Zipper Merge strategy, I need to talk about it.

First of all, the Zipper Merge is not natural to the Midwestern sensibility. No, instead we prefer the Early Merge – stacking ourselves up in a monstrous single-file horror for five miles if we have to – because we know that eventually, our lane is going to end. So, we aim to get ahead of the problem by moving over early. Employed by (I would say) 99% of the bleary-eyed, coffee-swilling, make up-applying commuting population, the Early Merge seems like a reasonable and natural strategy.

At least, until another motorist has the gall to defy and violate it by driving in the ill-fated lane until they can’t anymore. It’s a raw deal. There we sit, we Early Mergers who are sensible enough to heed the dissolution-of-lane warnings, as carefree Zipper Mergers scream by at full speed with looks that seem to say, “Why are you sitting there? What are you – a bunch of losers?”

And suddenly, we Early Mergers do feel like losers. The heat rises in our faces and we wonder if we’re stupid. We start to get mad. We feel resentful that Zipper Mergers can cruise by at full speed and end up forty cars in front of us while we, the sensible ones who heed the warnings and follow the rules, have just added fifteen minutes to our commute and six years to our lives due to rising blood pressure at their transgressions. How can Zipper Mergers be so reckless and thoughtless and careless?

At this point, a few Early Mergers will decide to take things into their own hands and stonewall Zipper Mergers by straddling the lane hash marks with their bumpers. “Hah!” these Early Mergers think. “They’re stuck now – just like us!” This maneuver often leads to honking, obscenities, and occasionally Zipper Mergers revving their engines and squeezing themselves between the cross-lane Early Merger and the edge of the shoulder to squeak by, giving the offending Early Merger the finger through the rear window in triumph.

And if any of the Early Mergers further along in the stack-up have been paying any attention at all to said lane-blocking battle, their role in the confoundery of the Zipper Mergers is to simply refuse them access to the new lane at the merge point. This last-stand tactic leads to more honking, more obscenities, more fingers, and every once in a while, more shoulder-driving.

But you can’t keep a Zipper Merger down, so in the end, they’ve whizzed by countless static Early Mergers, shaved several minutes off their commute, and ended up continuing on to work on-time and with a firm can-do attitude, rather than ending up lonely and alone by the side of the road with no lane to drive in – which is the fate that Early Mergers fear and are trying to avoid.

Does the DOT really think that a few commercials suggesting Zipper Merging is the way of the future is going to put an end to this all-out blacktop war?

I don’t know. I’ve converted from Early Merger to Zipper Merger, and you know what? It is faster. The DOT isn’t lying to us. Aside from feeling that I’m a marked woman after driving the whole length of my soon-to-end-lane and the stomach churning generated by doing something that doesn’t come naturally, it’s quite pleasant being a Zipper Merger. I feel less stress than I do sitting in a two-mile-long lane back-up, all of my hair standing on end as I wonder if I’m going to get where I’m going by the time I need to be there. And I think it does make sense to use all the lanes available. Why back up earlier than you need to?

And so, renters and owners, let’s stop the Early Merger-Zipper Merger war. Let’s stop the lane-blocking and finger-waving, agree to a truce, and try a new way of merging. We may not be able to get out of working (after all, we’ve gotta pay the rent), but at least we can make the trip there and back a little faster and a little more pleasant.

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