Saturday, November 04, 2006

Traffic (or "Why Insurance Is So High In Memphis")

Several of you have asked recently how the car-shopping experience panned out. It was disastrous at first, but eventually I settled on what I wanted. It took a few days (and a couple of times angrily storming out of the sales office followed by a call later in the evening with the salesman, sounding for all the world like a lover scorned, begging me to return, promising me the world.) There was also the small matter of my trade-in car, and its annoying habit of ceasing all functions while in the midst of downtown traffic. Of course, it ran fine for the mechanic when I took it in, so that meant I had a limited window with which to dump the thing before having to pay somebody to come get it. On the up side, if it broke down for the dealer, I could truthfully say that I had had a mechanic inspect it and tell me there was nothing wrong with it.

I did finally settle on a low-mileage Sebring. It's pretty sharp. It's the same style (and same alloy wheels) as the one in the picture, except it's more of a blue.

There's a thing, though, about having a new vehicle. And that is that EVERYBODY ON THE FLIPPIN' ROAD is trying to TOTAL it. I could've run my tumble-turd Cavalier at 190 miles per hour through a red-light in downtown rush hour and nobody would've even come close! The police might have even cordoned off the street for me to do it. But now that I have a car that has not had the first payment made on it, people are parachuting out of the sky for opportunities to do damage to it.

Of course Memphis traffic is that way anyway. Never in your life will you ever encounter a bigger group of people on whom you will deeply desire to commit horrific acts of violence than when you are in our fair city. These are people you don't even know and likely won't ever meet again, but you will disparage their family heritage, call them all sorts of names, and just generally froth with hatred at their very existence.

I don't know this to be a fact, because I transferred my license from another state, but I've heard that if you get more than 2 questions RIGHT on the license exam, you fail. Oh wait, I actually did take a driving test once in this city. I'm fuzzy on why I had to, but I do clearly remember the examination. It was time for the road test. The license examiner came out to my car, which I had pulled up to the curb. She then instructed me to start my engine. I did. She then told me to get out of the car and gave me an A. For a road test. For driving a CAR. On public streets. If you have the motor skills of a TWO-YEAR OLD, and have just enough intelligence to know that turning the key starts the car, you too can have a driver's license.

Of course that should come as no surprise in a city where "merge" is considered a personal challenge and where "this lane turns right" means cut across three lanes of traffic to slide into the Wal-Mart on the left.

And while I'm talking about other drivers, what is it with the lead person at the stop-light? Why is it that they never know it's green? You would think that due to their physical location immediately in front of the green light that they would be the first to have their neural synapses fire off the message that YES, IN FACT, IT IS GREEN. But no. They want it to be more of a bluish color, I suppose, so they wait for a more aesthetically pleasant color to pop up. And then they get offended at the "wake up honk." They look up from their Game Boy, or their cross-stitch, or their bomb-defusing in a state of total and utter shock that never fails to NOT translate into movement. Rather, the inertia is so set in that they cannot immediately move until such a time as they are the ONLY person to get through the light prior to its return to red.

Of course the biggest culprit in all of this are the cell phones. I know, I know, people have written scads and scads about this already, but could you drivers PLEASE hang up and pay attention? (If you have a driver out there with this problem, could you at least text this blog to them?) There's nothing worse than having to swerve up onto the sidewalk to keep someone from demolishing your quarter panel than to look up after and see that they haven't even acknowledged your existence because they're too busy holding a hunk of plastic to their head and talking into it. The other night, my friend and I were out at 3 AM and saw someone talking on the phone in their car, which immediately begs the question, WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO AT THIS TIME OF NIGHT??? If all of us are on the phone at all times, who's left to get the calls?

And some of the WORST drivers I know always say this: "I don't have a problem driving while talking on the phone." Here's a helpful hint: YES YOU DO. My oldest sister, though I love her and would throw myself in front of a moving bus for her, is quite possibly the worst driver I've ever seen. Riding with her is only slightly less jarring than sitting in the washing machine and putting it on super-spin cycle. She's one of those drivers that push the gas and then the brake, gas, brake, gas, brake, until your Dramamine wears off and you have to go into the next convenience store for a Sprite and crackers after puking your guts out in the horrid public restrooms. And the turns she makes! I've experienced less G's on that thing at the county fair that spins you and makes you stick to the wall. Yet she constantly assures us that she's such a good driver. She told me that she had no problem driving while talking on the cell phone. I'm like YOU HAVE A PROBLEM DRIVING WITHOUT THE CELL PHONE!!! Much less when you're yakking away to your friend while trying to swerve across the turn you missed. (I won't get into the time when it iced and she drove seventy on a solid sheet of frozen interstate, and then complained that I was following her too slowly. Pardon me for having to break out of a sideways skid to keep up.)

And don't even get me started on rush hour. I got stuck in such a major mess the other morning on the way to work, that it raises my blood pressure just to think about it. I left on time, but traffic was so slow that I knew I'd be late, if I even made it to work at all, so I (briefly using my cell phone because I'm a hypocrite) called in to work to let them know. As I hung up the phone, I looked up, and I witnessed, I kid you not, a FARM TRACTOR rolling down the city street ahead. I work in a very affluent section of the city. There's not a farm for MILES. This is DOWNTOWN. There was no place for a farm tractor to be coming from or going to. Yet in RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC, someone had the bright idea of driving a FREAKING FARM TRACTOR down the middle of a city street and making a thousand P.O.'ed Memphians late for work. I saw that the guy was wearing earphones, no doubt to cancel out all the honking and swearing. I'm surprised he didn't wear a bullet-proof vest. But I figure, hey, if you're stupid enough to drive a tractor through morning rush hour in downtown, then you're probably not bright enough to protect yourself.

Anyway, all this ranting that I'm doing tonight came about because of an event that happened earlier at the video store. I came out of the store, DVDs in hand, ready to kick back for the night. I get to my car, and apparently while I was in the store, somebody had pulled what appeared to be a tank into the spot beside my car. I mean this thing was way too big to be called a truck. You could've housed immigrants in it. Shaq could drive it and not have his feet touch the pedals. Wilt Chamberlain could've taken ALL his mistresses home in this thing.

But it's not that I minded someone parking an entire subdivision next to my car. What I minded was that they parked it WAY over on my side of the line. Nicole Richie could not have gotten into my car. Of course, the first thing I'm thinking was "who drives a truck this big?" And the second thing I was thinking was "they better not have had a passenger who opened the door into my car."

Fortunately, from what I could tell, there were no scratches on my door. But there was still no entry to be gained. (My car's shifter is in the floor, and I'd like to someday have children, so no way was I going to try to shift over from the passenger side.) So I waited for about fifteen minutes, wondering who was going to come out and claim this behemoth and remove it from my perimeter. With each passing moment, I boiled and seethed and became about twenty tons of hopping mad.

Eventually, this teenage couple emerges from the store. It's a girl and a scruffy looking guy that looked like he could be the body double for Shaggy on Scooby-Doo. The guy takes one look at the situation and the look on my face and says, and I quote: "Huh. My bad."


"My bad?" That's all he had to say????? I stood silently, staring at my car, fuming, and doing my best to exude death rays from my upper torso. I said nothing, and neither did they, though I think the girl was in a bit of a hurry to get away. She, quite wisely, climbed in the driver's seat. Oh the fit I would've thrown if she'd tried to open the passenger door. Fighter jets would've had to be scrambled.

And off they went.

I'm going to pretend that one of the exploding cars in MI3 is theirs. If it's a white truck, so much the better.

So let me hear your rants about traffic. Make me feel normal!


At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Lorraine said...

I try not to drive anymore. I only drive when necessary. I hate driving.

We lived in Italy for three years where traffic laws are really just suggestions and tiny two lane country roads are easily turned into four lanes as people pass you on either side because, silly American, why are you doing the speed limit? *S* They will literally get they're vehicles sooo close, you could share a bag of chips through the window. Yea... scary. And parking. HAHAHA! that little situation you had the other night... every freakin' day. Especially if you were unlucky enough to have a big Ford Explorer or other SUV. and the worst was the little 3-wheeled Lizzards (if you've never seen one, think mini pick up trucks with two wheels in the back, one in the front) with maybe 2 squirrels running under the hood, trying to pass you, with on coming traffic. right.

These days, I do ok in my current location of SMIBville MD... I try to avoid the beltway whenever possible though... DC drivers are nuts! and yea.... no one seems to know the meaning of "Merge" out here either....

At 2:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, you don't really want to get me started on this topic, do you?

For starters, you have no idea of the rude awakening I was in for when I moved from Portland, OR (where drivers are generally courteous) to Los Angeles (where drivers probably can't even spell courteous).

You see, in Portland if you'd like to change lanes and there is traffic, you just put your turn signal on and, in practically no time at all, someone in the next lane will slow down and motion you over. In L.A. if you put your turn signals on, this tells the drivers in the next lane that you'd like to merge into theirs and since it's THEIRS and not yours, they speed up to prevent you from getting in front of them. Not once was I EVER motioned over in five years of living in L.A.!! The only way to get into the next lane is to just start going there, with or without turn signals - it doesn't seem to make a difference, and you will get honked at and flipped off, as that is standard protocol. But, hey, when in Rome, right?

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Sailorcurt said...

I tend to not get as upset as I used to. This blessing has occurred for many reasons but not the least of which because I have recently been working diligently on renewing my faith in God.

I drive a motorcycle most of the time and this helps. Although most cage drivers do not pay any attention and tend to drive like motorcycles aren't even there, being on a bike makes dodging them fairly easy as long as one is paying attention and not doing anything stupid (like the kids you see on sport bikes doing wheelies in the breakdown lane during rush hour).

There are a few problems that drivers have around here (other than the inevitable "Cell phone ear").

For some reason, on a couple of very specific roads, only about one driver in ten will do the speed limit. For some reason, the vast majority of drivers insist on going 30 or 35 in a 45 zone (and act exasperated when I try to pass them). This is especially disconcerting when the exact same drivers get onto the road that I live on...a residential road with a speed limit of 35...and promptly accelerate to 50 mph (and shoot me obscene gestures because I'm "only" going 40). What is up with that???

Many drivers in this area have absolutely no understanding of the purpose or use of the "acceleration lane" when entering the highway. They come around the inevitable turn on the on-ramp going 30mph and SLOW DOWN to see if the lane is clear for at least two miles. When there is inevitably a car or two within view, they putt down the acceleration lane at logarithmically decreasing speed until they reach the end of the lane and a complete stop. They then await a completely clear lane before proceeding from a dead stop onto the interstate. Meanwhile, fifteen cars behind them were also blocked from properly utilizing the acceleration lane and, so, traffic becomes tied up at that ramp for an indefinite period of time.

Three cars occupying the three available lanes all driving beside each other at the same speed (aka "a rolling roadblock"). This may be intentional just to see how many other drivers they can tick off, but it happens every day.

The number one problem in this area, where it is virtually impossible to travel to another city without going through a tunnel: Drivers who fear that tunnels bite and, so, slow down to 30 mph before entering.

During rush hour, traffic backups at the tunnels stretch for miles. It can take an hour or two just to reach the entrance to the tunnel, once you actually get into the tunnel, traffic immediately goes back up to normal highway speed and flows smoothly. It is nothing more than people slowing down before entering the tunnel that causes these backups. HINT:The road at the entrance to the tunnel is EXACTLY the same width as the road leading to the tunnel and after entering the tunnel. If your car fits before you get to the entrance, and fits once inside the tunnel, it WILL fit through the entrance.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Sailorcurt said...

Oh: And slowing down does NOT make your car any narrower.


Post a Comment

<< Home