It’s hard to believe, but leave it to the Globe’s Spotlight team to uncover the unspeakable truth: Traffic is even worse than we thought.
Who knew there was a level below “Hell’s unyielding inferno?”
It was a remarkable series and included what I believe to be the perfect distillation of the patient, careful driving manner for which our region is known.
“The car is definitely more comfortable,” said a young woman named Nicole Newton, described as a car driver and bus rider, “because you are by yourself and you don’t have to worry about anybody else.”
Listen, I get what she was trying to say: Automobiles afford a sense of control and autonomy that the train or the bus simply do not.
And yet, this driving philosophy — you don’t have to worry about anybody else — might as well be emblazoned in a little hologram on our driver’s licenses.
Little-known fact: You actually do have to worry about everybody else. It’s sort of the foundational tenet of virtually all major philosophies and ethical systems in world history.
And when we’re walking around on foot, we’re mostly capable of recognizing our fellow humans as sentient creatures, each worthy of love, all getting on with the business of their own mysterious little lives. Mostly.
But when we’re in our cars? The moment strangers step into their Dodge Strati, they become faceless, subhuman creatures blocking our path to and from work.
Sadly, the e-mail from Spotlight asking me to lend my investigative prowess to the project must have gone to my spam folder. But I am not bitter. Instead, working with a talented team of people who sit within screaming distance of my desk, I have undertaken a parallel investigation. Here are the 14 worst people on the Mass. Pike, ranked.
(As always, people committing actual felonies are not eligible. Don’t commit felonies.)
14. The Ramp Regretter
Buddy, you’ve been in the “exit only” lane for the full duration of a sports radio commercial break, which is like 14 minutes. Now you realize you’re not going to the Cape?
13. The Out-of-Towner
This person may or may not have out-of-state plates but you’ll find him performing Blue Angel maneuvers in his Buick near that spot where I-95 South becomes I-93 North and vice versa, which actually makes perfect sense, what’s this guy’s problem, step on the gas already. I know that’s not the Mass. Pike. Whatever, it’s my list.
12. The Never-Ending Signal
The car is approaching Cambridge but, judging by the endless flashing of the turn signal, this person has apparently been planning to change lanes since Chicopee. How have they not noticed? There’s something zen about it, to be honest. It’s hard to be mad.
11. The Never-Beginning Signal
Near as I can tell, this is 70 percent of the population of Massachusetts.
10. The Swerving Dad
This guy’s dumb, hulking child transport unit is veering all over the road while he’s reaching behind the driver’s seat to find the blue marker cap his 3-year-old dropped so she’ll just stop yelling for one freakin’ minute already. “Yikes, this guy must be drunk,” thinks everyone else on the road, peeling away. . . . Look, I’m sorry, I couldn’t take the yelling anymore, and I didn’t want her to write all over the seat.
9. The Ax Mergerer
This person absolutely murders the merge onto the highway by either coming to a full stop as traffic speeds by, or catapulting the Impala into the travel lane without even glancing in the mirror.
8. Phone Guy (RIP)
If you’ve ever lived in another state, the sight of someone cruising down the turnpike, one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone, never stops being disconcerting.
Not at all sadly, phone guy is about to get real scarce around here:
The state just passed a hands-free driving law, propelling Massachusetts bravely into 2006.
7. The Line Cutter
Everyone can see the right lane is ending. That’s what the big flashing arrow means. And so we dutifully merge over to the left for the privilege of driving very slowly past some construction equipment that appears to be abandoned.
But not the Line Cutter. He promptly swerves all the way to the right and races past the rest of us so he can cut in at the last minute — thus shaving nanoseconds off his commute.
6. Everyone But The Line Cutter
It turns out you’re actually supposed to wait until the last minute to merge, it’s actually much more efficient.
5 . The Self-Appointed Deputy
This person is straddling the lanes so the line cutter can’t line cut. What are you, the cops? Mind your business, Narc.
4. The Browser
E-mail, text, TikTok — whatever this guy is doing on his phone is way more important than what he’s doing on the road, which is about 45 miles an hour in the passing lane.
3. Richard Extremely Petty
Don’t dare commit the unforgivable crime of going slightly slower than this guy would prefer on his race either to work or to the convenience store where he buys scratch tickets. Because Richard E. Petty will spend the rest of your journey tailgating, flashing his high beams and honking so you know you’ve wronged him in some imperceptible way.
2. The Master ’Gater
Are you a proctologist? Are you MY proctologist? Then why are you so close to my tailpipe, sir?
The great enduring mystery of our time is how these people drive all over Massachusetts 8 inches from the rear bumper of the car in front of them without crashing all the time.
1. The Omnitasker
Phone guy has nothing on the Omnitasker, who is somehow texting, changing the radio, flossing his teeth, smoking a heater, and eating an egg sandwich all while hurtling past the 495 interchange at 85 miles an hour.
After he meets a grisly, inevitable end along the Pike someday, his family’s only comfort will be that he died doing what he loved: Wet-shaving in the car.