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4 Unspoken Social Rules You Follow Without Thinking

#2. Merge Lanes

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On roads, highways, and parking lots, people are ruthless dicks, from the turn of the ignition straight on through the nine counts of vehicular manslaughter we accrue on our way to work. You can hide who you are in conversation, but the blood smears on your bumper will let everyone know that maybe you're not the kind-hearted fellow you said you were. There is but one safe haven, one place where all of our selfishness and carelessness give way to pure politeness and generosity: the merge lane.

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"Man Urinating Ahead"

Merge lanes are those war stories where the two factions put aside their differences for a minute and play a soccer game on Christmas Day before they go back to killing each other. They're a peek into the potential heights humanity can ascend to if we weren't thinking about ourselves all the time, and it's all quickly washed away the second some pig fucker roots through his glove box for a lighter while doing 80 on the highway, nearly causing a four-lane death pile of twisted metal and explosions, so you flip him off and tell him to rot in hell with the rest of the pig fuckers, and he responds with a warm smile, a middle finger in one hand and a half-empty bottle of Pabst in the other.

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"Welcome to the Road. I'll be your escort to the afterlife."

There are no laws telling us we need to be polite when we merge, which is why the effortlessness with which we employ the zipper method -- that you-go-I-go-then-you-go tactic -- is incredible. Like it was automated by Disney Imagineers for maximum kindness, we allow other people driving at speeds that could ruin our lives to slide in ahead and behind us. No nods or waves, permission is rarely granted -- it just happens. Come on, friend. Join us on the highway. It's lovely here. We don't bite. So they join. We politely hold open a door and let them go first. When they do, we beat them with sticks. Fuck you. Merge end. It road now. I win road. You no survive road.

#1. Classroom Seating Arrangements

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On the first day of class, the moment you walk through the door and see the room you're going to revisit for weeks, you have an important choice to make. Before you is a vast, empty landscape ripe for the taking. What seat will you settle your ass into and call home? There's a lot riding on this choice, because even though the professor isn't assigning permanent seats, whichever seat you plant your ass in will likely be the only seat you'll sit in for the rest of the semester.

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Go with the one near the window. You can leap out of it.

We like that there are some constants sprinkled throughout the day; things that require no thought, no input. For an entire semester or school year, you're going to be bombarded with chapters of information that make no sense, and your self-confidence will be kicked in the nuts repeatedly. That seat will be one of the few things guaranteed to make sense for the rest of the year. I sit here. I sit nowhere else but here. I may never truly figure out what the teacher is saying, what this shit in the textbook means, but I know that I sit here. That seat is reliable. It's a comfort zone.

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The white kid in the back: "I will cut you."

There's a short buffer period of maybe a couple of classes before the final arrangement is set in stone. Once that period ends, any attempt to change seats will disrupt the classroom ecosystem. A ripple of chaos spreads through the class when everyone sees the classroom anarchist stand and look for a new seat, an act that's probably taken them weeks to work up the courage to perform. Their classmates look on in silent judgment: You wanted this. You chose this. It is ecological balance. There is only one holistic system of systems. You are meddling with the primal forces of nature.

I've been the person in need of a seat change and its social anxiety horror. Even when moving to a new seat only a few feet away, it feels like I'm bulldozing someone's comfort and replacing it with the monolith that is my own comfort. It's too insignificant an act to apologize for, so the only recourse is to never again make eye contact with anyone in that class for the rest of my life.


Luis is busy rubbing his bare butt on all the classroom seats to feel dominant. In the meantime, he can be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

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