Dear Amy: Please help me settle a dispute. I carpool with some people regularly, and we disagree about how to handle a common traffic situation.
When two lanes merge into one, what is the best and most efficient way to merge? One fellow commuter thinks it's best to merge as early as possible.
What do you think?
— Curious Commuter
Dear Commuter: Your question provides a nice relief from my usual queries from jilted lovers, upset mothers-in-law and depressed fetishists.
When I posed this refreshing question while driving on a road trip with my own family, however, it created some dissent — plunging me right back into the vortex of dysfunction from which I had been seeking relief.
I ran this past Karen Brewster, spokeswoman for Caltrans, the state agency responsible for the entire transportation system in California.
She responded: "It depends on the situation. When two lanes merge, if a motorist is able to merge early, she should do so at an appropriate speed for the situation, similar to that of traffic in the adjacent lane.
"If vehicles are completely stopped in both lanes, then drivers may wait and take turns merging at the end into the lane that continues.
"Caltrans asks drivers to stay especially alert in work zones to protect highway workers and travelers alike. Drivers should slow down and move over when safe to do so when they see vehicles with flashing amber lights."
So yes, it seems your fellow commuter and my husband are correct. If you know you are approaching a merge point, move over early when you can do so at a normal traveling speed, avoiding a bottleneck at the merge point.
Dear Amy: I recently attended a wedding with my entire extended family. We all have grown children with the exception of a younger sister. Her children are only 5 and 3. (My child is in his late 20s.)
We had a falling-out years ago, and my sister does not include me in any family activities, but seeing this family at the wedding made me feel terrible about this estrangement.
The issue that caused this is long over, and I would like to be included and see my nieces once in a while.
Other than trying to talk to her, I don't know what to do about this. I guess I may have to live with this and walk away from my young nieces.
— Hurt Sister
Dear Hurt Sister: By framing your query as, "Other than trying to talk to her," you discount the most obvious way to build a bridge across this estrangement, which is to communicate.
Reach out to your sister via email or a note. Say, "It was so nice to see you and your girls at the wedding. In many ways they reminded me of you when you were their age (if that is true). I feel terrible about the rift between us and would like to move forward so that I can get to know your children — and repair our relationship too. Do you think we could work on that?"
Follow up with a phone call.
It takes courage to make this sort of entreaty. Don't just sweep your difficult past under the rug. The idea is to move on from your estrangement, not ignore it. If you have things to apologize for, do so.
Your sister may ignore or reject your overture, but you will never regret making it.
Dear Amy: You ran a letter from "Torn," who said that he and a friend had a "fake marriage" on Facebook.
I can't figure out why people would claim to be married when they are not? Am I missing something about Facebook?
— Curious Reader
Dear Curious: On Facebook, you can declare and then change your "status" whenever you want. Sometimes, close friends, as a goof (or for other reasons) claim to be "married."
A faux-Facebook marriage is much easier to dissolve than an actual marriage, though "Torn" was finding it quite awkward.
Commuters cope with the urge to merge
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