Carpool Lane Conundrum

at 12:35 AM

Over the limit, by himself, and apparently without a care in the world, he sailed past me in the carpool lane. My boss. Alone.

Besides getting on the road behind me and arriving at work earlier, he's younger, better paid and drives a more expensive car. Whether he's more handsome and funnier is for others to judge of course.

From the radio, Cokie Roberts filled the gap of my unreliable carpool partner, whose absence had yet again condemned me to the gridlock. The cars around me fumed. So did I.

Factor in bridge tolls, extra gas and most importantly the complete waste of time sitting in traffic, and the carpool economics is clear. To maximize one's marginal utility, the mythical rational economic agent must chance it, and take the carpool lane. If time is money, then wasting it sitting in the commute quickly outweighs the relatively minor setback of infrequent fines. Not only that, but longer commutes correlate with increased incidence of skin cancer. Something I'd like to avoid.

The urge to slide left, ease on the gas and eat up that pristine asphalt strip was almost irresistible. But carpool ethics are more murky. Is the occasional fine enough to restore grace? Should carbon offsets in other areas of life be redeemable for carpool privileges? And how about the socially conscious carpooler, condemned to another late arrival by his absent partner? Should he be allowed to sneak along the carpool lane?

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Watching the ethical egoists speeding by on the left, committing their small but significant theft from each member of society, I reasoned that respecting the carpool constitutes a daily test of one's ethical integrity. I stayed put.

Of course my reward would come on returning home each day, having maintained my ethical integrity, by which time presumably, my boss will have already arrived home, kissed the wife, played with the kids, enjoyed dinner and poured himself a second glass of Chardonnay.

With a Perspective, I'm Luke Pease.

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