August 16, 2009

on the road

So, prior to living here, I loved to drive. Sometimes, if I was having a bad night, or if I had plans that were canceled, or if I was just plain bored, I would get in my car and drive. Just drive around, with my thoughts and some music, and things were fine.

However, I moved here and all of htat changed. I would get behind the wheel and panic. Other drivers terrified me, and getting behind the wheel was torture. I had my first full out panic attacks behind the wheel on Minnesota streets and highways. I chalked it up to not having a car for my first couple of years out here.

I realized, however, that I was and am fine driving other places. Chicago, my home state of Michigan, Ohio, New York. I talked to a friend with a similar affliction, who was not from here and moved away. She realized that her driving anxiety was exclusivley tied to Minnesota.

I started to think about it. She was right. Now, I know that a lot of native Minnesotans are going to be pissed off reading this. They tend to get their panties in a twist the minute you start pointing out flaws in their beloved state. Now, I personally know my hometown has plenty of flaws, so when people make generalizations, I know there is a grain of truth to it, or the stereotype wouldn't exist. Anyway, when I moved here, I had to take a test to transfer my license. I admit I failed the first time. I misread a question, not seeing a "no." The question made no sense when I misread it, and since the test is computerized there was no going back. I went back the next day, aced the test and had my license. Now, I often wonder if natives have to go through the same thing. I guess not, since there are frightening abuses of the rules of the road that happen so often that someone following the correct rules are a rarity.

For instance, merging. Minnesotans are notoriously terrible mergers. Somehow getting onto an expressway befuddles all involved and often brings traffic to a standstill. Pick your spot and go means nothing. It turns into this passive-aggressive tangle of back and forth, "no you first, " and braking. The same tangle translates to the four-way stop. Normally one would think the first person at the stop has the right of way. If two arrive, the car to the right goes first. Nope. Again there is this tangle, with cars slowly inching forward wondering if they whould just go, or if they should let the other car go, both trying to be polite (or "Minnesota nice") and wanting to just go. Something simple turns exhausting. Heaven forbid you should obey the actual shall be inflicted with much fist shaking...or worse.

The seed for this post started on my way home from the co-op today. I was having a pretty good day up until this point. I had procured the makings for my meals and snacks, and was sipping on a kombucha tea. I approached an intersection of two side streets. There was a car coming from a way back, and a couple was crossing towards me. I stepped into the intersection and crossed. There was plenty of time for the forementioned car to stop leisurely. As I finished crossing, I hear a snarly lady's voice yell, "there was no stop sign." i was flabbergasted. Pedestrians have the right of way at intersections unless there is a pedestrian signal stating otherwise. I stuttered for a moment, in shock of this jerk. After what felt like an eternity to me, I stammered, "Pedestrians have the right of way." I managed to stop there. I wanted to yell something about checking her driver's manual, or shouting a string of profanities. Instead, I continued home. I probably wouldn't have taken it so personally if this sort of thing weren't so commonplace. Yet, whenever I go for a run, I get nervous that someone blowing through a stop sign or ignoring pedestrian rights is going to take me out. It's a drag.

I could go on, citing lots of road rules that people regularly ignore...but I shall stop. I got most of what I needed to off my chest. In nice to pedestrians, pick your spot and go, and if you arrive fist...just go. Don't inch towards me, or I just might cut you. For serious.

Posted by raven at August 16, 2009 09:11 PM
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