Friday, September 3, 2010

Road rash

Nobody knows how to drive in Northern Virginia. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Actually, they do know how to drive, in the sense that you get behind the wheel and the right peddle is "go" and the left peddle is "not go" (also "un-go" or "de-go," depending). They just don't know how to drive with each other.

Imagine a playground full of small children. Imagine all of these small children playing their own game with their own sets of rules. You've got kickball over here, dodgeball in that corner, basketball in the middle, maybe throw in a couple of jump ropes and a good game of high stakes poker. That's driving in Virginia.

I blame it on the clash of cultures.

New England is a great case study. Folks in Massachusetts drive one way, in New Hampshire they do it another. Everybody hates Rhode Island drivers; they're the worst.

But at least they understand the rules of the game (in Massachusetts the rules are: every man for himself; it's full contact sport; and "you don't talk about the driving rules in Massachusetts.") So when you're buzzing through Boston you know certain things. Like stopping for a stop sign is really rolling through it unless there is a cop, in which case you probably stop. Most of the time. You also expect the person taking a left after a red light to shoot out first, so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic.

Down here, you get a mix of that, toss in some obnoxious New York City motoring shenanigans and a touch of the Mass Turnpike on a busy day. But you've also got the southern hospitality factor.

The southern hospitality factor means slowing down for yellow light, so as to obey the letter of the law. Southern hospitality means deciding who will go first at a four-way stop needs negotiations reaching the Camp David Accords level. Southern hospitality means the speed limit is 25, dagnabbit, and that's the way it is, y'all understand?

On the roads, these people don't play nice.

While their interaction is amusing to watch from afar, when you're actually in the midst of it, these people will drive you to white-knuckle driving. Now I understand why people here don't stray out onto the streets if there's a snowstorm. Hell, I wouldn't either. Why risk it?

I don't know, when approaching a changing light, whether I can hit the gas or the brakes. I don't know whether I'll be able to roll through a stop sign or have someone cut me off. Frankly, it's unsettling.

And I don't think I'm the only one left unsettled. How else can you explain the Metro raising its rates again? $2 and change is a decent price for living a few minutes longer.

2 comments: said...

My favorite is the utter disregard for turn signals here. I mean why should you use a turn signal to switch from the left lane to the right lane on a 3-lane highway.

Derrick Perkins said...

See, that doesn't actually bother me because I'm used to it. The difference is back home I could tell when somebody was going to lurch across three lanes unannounced. Here, they're just as likely to throw it in reverse and ram me.

It's the stopping for yellow lights that really bothers me. My instinct says "GO!" but my eyes say: "You're going to rear-end that dude locking up his brakes."