Letting Miss Daisy Drive

I am not complaining. I do it so often, you can't really refer to my method of communication as "complaining." It's mere observation layered in sarcastic overtones, served with ice-cold criticism.

Today's topic is the amazingly awful driving situation I find in my new home of Cary, North Carolina. I knew I was in for an experience from my brief stay here a few years ago - which I mark as the first time I saw a foot sticking out of the driver's-side window of a car going 70+ mph.

In the first few months, I asked for directions from just about everyone I spoke to. Here is a typical offering if you're lost in this area:

"Okay, go down one of these roads. Doesn't matter which. Keep going until you see a Wendy's. Maybe a Burger King. Turn at the next light. When you see a Starbucks, you've gone too far. Look for a place with donuts and you're there."

Could you be any more generic? Something that bothers me about using popular franchises as landmarks. Probably because there is one every 400 feet. Landmarks are supposed to be distinguishable, no duplicates allowed. You might as well tell me to "turn at the tree and then go until you see a dog. Make a left. You'll reach the strip club when it starts drizzling. If it's pouring, you've gone too far."

But I now realize that I can't blame the locals. It's just that franchise restaurants, clothing stores and superstores are all we have here. Driving through Cary is like watching a chase scene from an old Saturday morning cartoon where the background just keeps repeating itself over and over. Scooby and Shaggy might not notice that they keep running past the same door, potted plant and suit of armor but I can't go 2 miles without getting paranoid the third time I pass a strip mall with the same Wendy's / Target / Boston Market layout.

Once these people get behind the wheel, that's when the real trouble begins. For example:

  • The car horn is a visual accessory that no one actually uses. In the five months I've lived here, I have not yet heard anyone use a car horn. Except for me. People looked at me horrified - as though I had just flashed their grandmother.

  • A yellow lights does not mean 'caution' or even 'slow down'. It means 'stop abruptly.'

  • A driver is permitted to stop in the middle of any busy intersection in the case of an emergency - like if their cell phone rings.

Like most other states, turning right during a red light is completely legal. However, most drivers seem to have only one of three thoughts in their mind when in this situation:

a) "Oh, I don't want to impose,"
b) "I know I can turn. But let's wait it out and see what happens,"
c) "What's all that honking?"

Ambulances and fire engines en route to emergency locations also display the same hesitation and patience.

Now I understand that accidents happen. And usually my only concern is that no one was seriously hurt. But I admit it, it's frustrating when two cars collide and manage to stretch across four lanes of highway - barely allowing rush hour traffic to crawl past on the shoulder. But the unique way accidents are handled here is that the police refuse to clear the cars to minimize traffic congestion. They act like they're fucking forensic analysts from CSI. "No! No! Don't move your car! And put that detached bumper back over there. We can't disturb the scene until EVERYTHING is examined. What's all that honking?"

Driving on a NC highway is a lot like shopping at a Target on a Saturday afternoon. You're in a hurry and know exactly what you need and where to go for it. But as soon as you start cruising at a decent pace, you get stuck behind a jackass couple who slams on their brakes with no warning. "Honey! Stop! A Swiffer."

You angrily move around them without any safety considerations as you contemplate whether the pain would be worth it to crash into them. Yet just as you move into the passing lane, you find that you're behind a senior citizen who's MPH is equal to the number of years she has left to live. And then a bunch of teenagers moon you. Damn Target.

And just pray there is nothing on the highway besides road and a grass median. Because these people live to slam on their brakes and gawk at anything unexpected they come across. "Oh! My! God! What is that?! It looks like a car on a little road at the side of the highway. But it isn't moving. And there's no driver! Stop right here. You gotta take my picture next to this thing. What's all that honking?"

I found myself stuck in a similar traffic jam - which I eventually found out to be caused by a sign that read "Inmates Working." And just 50 yards beyond the sign is the source of the five mile congestion: no, not Frank Stallone; inmates working. Go figure. A punishment this harsh is only reserved for the most dangerous of Cary's hardened criminals. Like people who cuss. Or pay their country club memberships late. Or honk.

I thought this was supposed to be NASCAR country. Let's fucking act like it, people. Oh, you only like to watch cars go fast - in a controlled circle at that? And let's only talk about cars, engines and pistons ad infinitum. We dare not actually put this knowledge - nay, obsession - to good use. Good grief.

1 comment:

  1. Very funny stuff. When in Rome...