Friday, September 25, 2009
The Adventures of the Morning Commute
Every morning's drive to Chase's school is a lesson in how to drive and how not to drive for my son. Naturally, we have no choice but to head out during the high traffic time when everyone else is also hitting the road to go to work or school. Plus, you've got the moving obstacles stopping at every school bus stop with flashing lights that few seem to understand (flashing yellow means you can continue past them cautiously; only flashing red means you need to stop). It's hectic, and there's nothing you can do about it.
I personally have an unfortunate amount of left hand turns on my route from home to school. One light in particular is a true test of patience for all involved: the traffic is so backed up in all directions, each light change finds a multitude of cars blocking the intersection in a desperate attempt to not have to wait one more cycle of light changes. Which means the alternate flow can't move anywhere until halfway through their green light, which allows about two cars to squeak through before the light changes again and the dance starts anew. We are all familiar, right?
The sketchiest part of the drive is a T that I encounter each morning. Like a breath of fresh air, the traffic as you approach the T greets me about 20 car lengths out. About 80 percent of the cars approaching the T (a 1-way stop, not a 3-way) need to go left, including myself. There's those damn lefts again. And from all three directions, the traffic flow is very heavy with a healthy dose of buses sprinkled about thanks to four schools in the proximity. So those of us approaching from the stem side of the T with the stop sign must rely on the courtesy and generosity of the drivers cruising the top side of the T to allow us schmoes to get out. And when turning left, we need the generosity and kindness of two souls to help us get out. Now you're asking a bit much. Particularly at 7:45 a.m.
And it's at this intersection that the ratio of considerate drivers to inconsiderate drivers is abundantly clear. In case you couldn't guess, we're severely lacking on the considerate side. Here's how it operates in a perfect world: Driver #1 is in a car approaching from the right and wishing to turn left onto the street I'm on. So he's forced to stop and wait for a break in the onslaught of vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. Fortunately (for him), lots of these cars are turning right onto my street. So we have one coming along, planning a right hand turn onto my street; this is Driver #2. As long as Driver #2 is a nice, observant driver who sees Driver #1 needing to go left, he slows down to create enough of a gap to allow this. Now ideally, Driver #1 would have observed Driver #3 (that'd be me) sitting at this same intersection with her signal flashing a need to go left and when he gets his go-ahead from Driver #2, he would first allow #3 to hop out, he'd then turn left in front of the still-patiently-waiting #2 and all is right with the world. Make sense? Clear as mud? You'd get it perfectly if you could see the intersection. My main point here is that it's rare that Drivers #1 and 2 both get this or are in the kindhearted mood to allow it.
Since almost everyone in this particular show is in it daily, everyone is familiar with the intersection and the steps that must be maneuvered for all to finally make the turn they need. So when it doesn't flow properly, I tend to blame it on inconsiderateness more than obliviousness.
So each morning I tell Chase the rules of driving: 1. Safety first. 2. Be a defensive driver because too many others out there aren't as concerned for your life (or their own) as they are getting somewhere fast. And 3. Be aware of what all is around you and be considerate of others. As often as you have the opportunity to help another driver, you will need the same sort of help yourself. And if the world were full of nothing but inconsiderate people only looking out for number one, it'd be a pretty miserable place to be...not to mention impossible for any of us to get anywhere.