Rush hour and I have never been on speaking terms, so I always try to avoid the Beltway between 4 and 6:30 on weekday afternoons. But I was coming home from an assignment in Annandale the other day at about 6, and I couldn't see fighting through every red light in Fairfax County. So 495 clockwise it was.

Now, I remember how it used to be when there was only a left exit from the northbound Beltway onto Interstate 66. Cars would merge onto the right lanes of the Beltway from U.S. Rte. 50. They'd have about three-quarters of a mile to cross four lanes in order to exit at 66. Panicked that they'd miss the turnoff, entering cars would take crazy chances in getting to the left lanes. Most motorists already on the Beltway would know enough to watch out for these kamikaze pilots, but there were close calls aplenty.

Did I say "were"? Make that "are."

Even though two signs plainly inform motorists entering from Rte. 50 that there's now a right-side entrance to 66, the lane-changing continues. The day I swept north on the Beltway, a Camaro, a Pinto and a Chevette -- none large enough to justify the gamble -- whipped across my bow in a frenzied effort to "get left."

For the Chevette, I had to stamp on the brake the way I used to stamp on ants at summer camp. Believe me, that was hard.

Plea to enterers-at-50: I know old habits die hard, but so will some of the rest of us. Please keep right. You can get onto 66 by doing so.