Thursday, October 10, 2013

Courtesy, Caution, & Congress

Don't we all hate the morning drive? I mean, a lot people who have just rolled out of bed 20 minutes before are not the kind of people you want to see at 7:30 a.m., behind the wheel of a deadly weapon. . . I mean car. And people who are going to or just got off a job they hate are also not the kind of people you want roll with on the expressway.

I live in a town that, in the last 25 years, has expanded much faster than the mentality of town. I don't mean that in a negative way. It is one of the things I like about it. A mid-sized town with a small town flavor. The problem is not in the front yards, or shops, or restaurants. It is on the Expressway. Resident drivers in this town still think this is a small town and they must drive just as they have all their lives... and as their grandparents drove - before expressways and interstates arrived.

I'm a small town girl. I grew up in rural Alabama. At 13 I learned to drive in a potato field, on the access roads that were rutted, pot-holed, and dusty on hot summer days, and muddy on rainy ones. The joke was that if you learn to drive in those conditions, you can handle a lot of less bumpy ones. And learning in that field won't result in fatalities... well not to people. There were those times I got stuck in a mud hole and had to walk home to get Daddy to come pull me out. But that's another post.

I've traveled extensively as a military dependant. I also learned to drive on the interstates around Atlanta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; and Birmingham, Alabama. So driving in strange places isn't unusual for me. When I say the potato field is not Atlanta, Georgia you must believe me. Potatoes fields are nothing like driving in Atlanta.

During my drive to work today, I decided to discus big city driving and the use of courtesy, caution, and congress. Now, I know you're thinking, "Oh Lord, another political rant" but that isn't the case at all. Bear with me.

First, courtesy is a must. You don't have to smile, or wave, or even like the other drivers but if you expect to receive courtesy, you have to give it. Be nice, people. You could smile. Pretend for the length of the drive that you're a happy driver. The give and take of courtesy is worth the effort you'll expend. When you get home you can kick your dog. I hope he bites you.

There are many ways to get from point A to point B; generally, a straight line is considered the best and most efficient. But the people who created interstates and expressways didn't excel at basic geometry so such highways are not laid out according to this rule. One must follow the flow of hundreds of speeding bullets, some weighing thousands of pounds and loaded with cargoes that shift violently in the event of a sudden stop. You must navigate these pathways smoothly and without hesitation. Where I live, this would be a miracle.

So, caution is vital when driving on busy interstates and expressways. Knowing how to navigate the merging traffic on these roads is tricky and the secret is - you have to KEEP MOVING. You can't stop in the middle of the lane waiting for your shot. If you stop, it creates a nightmare behind you for the next driver(s), who probably knows how to drive on such roadways. It also creates a nightmare and potentially disastrous accident to everyone else.

Here is an example. Driver A wants to merge into the flow of traffic. First, DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EXPRESSWAY OR THE ON/OFF RAMP. This is stupid. No... this is lunacy. Merge means to join the flow of traffic in a safe and efficient way. You actually should be speeding up to get into the traffic that is flying by you. And for the love of God and Country, turn on your blinkin' blinker. That's why they put them in a vehicle as standard equipment. It is a sign!

Please remember, that traffic coming in from a merging lane has the right of way. If you're in the right lane you should merge into the left to allow ease of access to that traffic. This never happens and this is what starts a vicious cycle.

Consider. Driver A is in a lane merging into the flow of traffic. He has reach an indecisive state. Driver B is approaching Driver A's at around 55 mph. This is very fast when you're sitting still. She is watching the merging traffic because she wants to to get off at this exit while allowing them to merge. She sees A and is looking for a blinker to tell her where A going. Ah, no blinker. They're not getting on here. Are they going to continue in that lane and drive off into the trees or buildings?  Or, are they taking the secondary road that also exits here? No, wait, they're going to just sit there, dead in the lane, creating a backlog of fifty vehicles waiting for them to figure out where they are and if they actually want to drive today. Driver B begins to pray, swear, and scream, "GET OUT OF THE WAY, YOU MORON!"

The traffic behind Driver B begins to pray and swear, and scream at her as she is forced to a halt in high speed traffic. Racing vehicles hit their brakes as they realize Driver B is stopped. Oncoming cars swerve around her, nearly slamming into the side of big rigs who also swerve. It can become a scene straight out of the Keystone Cops movies of the 30's, or Final Destination 2.

Let me say here that all religions are likely to fail at this point unless you are a Pentecostal, at which point you begin to rebuke the devil for trying to kill you. We may even close our eyes and begin to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Ghost on us and God's wrath on you. This is usually ineffective, by the way, and God views it as a fail. My advice is, keep your eyes open and pray for a parting of the traffic. I find this often works.

We now come to the most important aspect of driving on American highways - congress. This is not a body of elected officials who are trying to work for the good of the American people. No such body exist. What we are talking about here is a more primitive meaning: coming together. Long ago, the word was used to describe an intimate relationship, basically, sexual intercourse, and the United States Congress still practices screwing the American people. However, for our driving lesson, we're using a much nicer version of the word. It means "a formal meeting to make decisions". Something unheard of in American politics since the Revolution.

Driver A and Driver B both need to make decisions. Driver A has caused enormous problems by his decision to stop in a lane intended to move things along by merging moving vehicles into a much bigger, faster moving lane of traffic. He also has failed to use his blinker to signal his intent, probably because he doesn't really know what he intends or that the car contains such a device.  Driver B has been forced to comply with Driver A's negotiating skills and things have devolved to the same state as our country. Everything has come to a screeching halt. Except for the people around them. As you may have discerned by now, in both government and traffic, this is not good.

What is required here is the two parties must work together without saying a single word to one another, must come to a mutual agreement on where they are going and how they get there. This borders on the miraculous. This is where congress comes in.

Decisions must be made in quickly and whatever else you do, you can't afford to stop. If anything, Driver A should apply acceleration, turn on the blinker, and MERGE. Believe me, the scenario between Driver A  and B proves that all other traffic, upon seeing a hurtling object headed their way, will generally move out of the way when possible.

Really, it comes down to dollars and cents. How much damage are you willing to incur to hold your position? Totalled vehicle? Astronomical medical bills? Funeral expenses? It isn't hard for me. Merging traffic has the right of way and I no longer stop for anyone. Move on, move over, or get off the road.

Too bad Congress hasn't figure this out.


  1. I had a scathingly laughable comment - that got dropped in what Blogger called an 'edit error." With my memory - it's gone. You may laugh anyway, if you wish. I am over this blog!

  2. Don't really understand your political system but brilliant blog. Thankfully I only have a mile drive to work so no motorway to negotiate.