or driving me crazy

I live in Macon, Georgia, a small city (population: around 100,000, 99,957 of whom don’t know how to drive) some sixty miles from the traffic hell of Atlanta. Don’t get me wrong: I love Atlanta. It’s the home of the Braves (insert The Star-Spangled Banner pun here), the Falcons, the Varsity, the High Museum of Art, Coca-by-God-Cola, and many other wonderful things.

The Tom Moreland Interchange, better known as Spaghetti Junction. (The I-85 interchange at I-285.)
The Tom Moreland Interchange, better known as Spaghetti Junction —
I-85 at I-285 interchange (Ben Ramsey CC)

Its traffic, however, I can live without. Atlanta is right up there with Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. for having the worst traffic in the country. There is an interchange in Atlanta formally named the Tom Moreland Interchange (Tom Moreland being Georgia’s former Commissioner of Transportation, famed for transforming Georgia’s highway system from a two-lane and dirt road mess into the overbuilt cluster-fu… er, fantastic infrastructure it is today), but more popularly called “Spaghetti Junction.” In northeast Atlanta, it’s at the confluence of I-85, I-285, and several other major arteries. A marvel of planning, engineering, and construction, from the air it looks like, well, a plate of spaghetti.

Earlier this year, it has also tragically been the spot where several people have leapt to their deaths. Of course, I’m not making light of suicide; the depression that causes it can be a horrible, debilitating, and yes, fatal, disease. However, I can’t help but wonder if the poor souls who ended their lives by jumping from the high road at Spaghetti Junction did it because they were just worn out by the damn traffic. Enough is enough.

Even in li’l ol’ Macon, enough is enough. At the risk of preaching to the choir, since likethedew’s readers would never exhibit driving stupidity (right?), herewith are some driving basics that will help us all—well, me, about whom it’s all—get along, literally, on our highways and byways (what is a byway, anyway?):

Stop slowing down to ogle accidents. Stop it. Stop. It. How many millions of hours and gallons of gas have been wasted, when interstate traffic comes to a crawl because idiots driving by just have to look at the aftermath of an accident? The temperature approaches absolute zero at such sites. It must, because pretty much all molecular activity ceases. After they get a good look, the idiots move on. But before they do, they cause miles and miles of drivers behind them to sit, fume, and plan heinous ways to kill everyone in front of them. Those are precious hours that you’ll never get back, you doofuses! Just keep moving so the rest of us can, too.

Along the same lines, when you’re driving on the interstate and several signs tell you that the road narrows, merge left in two miles, for God’s sake—actually, for my sake (did I mention that it’s all about me?)—go ahead and move your vehicle over to the left lane, ASAP. A. S. A. P. Count the number of times you’ve driven when traffic has ceased all forward momentum because some goober—more accurately, a whole line of goobers—has come to the merging area before it finally occurs to him (or her; nothing sexist about stupid drivers) to get into the proper lane. His/her attempts to suddenly move over result in the whole damn show coming to a stop. A warning: if you are said goober trying to merge at the very last second, and I’m the one who has a choice about letting you into the lane or not, know this: I will not—not—let you in. I’ll ride the bumper of the car in front of me closely enough that I’m in danger of rear-ending it, just to keep you from moving over. You had your chance, buddy. In fact, you had two miles of your chance.

I’ve given up on people who drive with one of their turn signals on, and I’ve stopped letting it drive me crazy. It’s their turn signal mechanism that’s wearing out, not mine. Besides, not believing a turn signal is the second rule of driving (the first? Duh: Always keep your engine running). I’m also trying to stop fretting about people of who don’t turn their headlights on early and late in the day, and when it’s raining. However, those are situations in which I (again, all about me; all of it, all the time) might be affected, since my inability to see them could result in me hitting them, so there is a logical motive for petting this peeve. (Their reasoning, of course—if they even possess the ability to have reason—is, “I can see just fine. Why should I worry about what other people can see?” Famous last words.)

Now, about traffic signals: here, especially, is where you need to maintain situational awareness, particularly if you’re driving the first car. Hang up the phone, put down the bacon double cheeseburger, put the gallon-sized soft drink in a cup holder (sidebar question: why are there twice as many cup holders in cars as there are available seats? Americans are some thirsty drivers), and watch the damn traffic signal. Oh, the road rage that has ensued because some moron has just sat there at a traffic signal, long since turned to green. As drivers behind him/her turned red.

If you’re in a left-turn lane at a traffic signal, here’s some shocking news: it’s OK—even legal—to pull into the intersection. You don’t have to wait behind the big white line in the turn lane until oncoming traffic passes. (Just make sure not to turn your wheel to the left until you actually start your turn, in the off chance that you get rear-ended; that way, you won’t be pushed into oncoming traffic.) If you wait behind the big white line, you not only make it likely that you’ll not be able to turn, but more importantly, you make it impossible for those behind you—meaning me—to have a chance to turn left.

Re: fast-food drive-through lanes. See first “traffic signals” paragraph above, and those three critical words: maintain situational awareness.

Despite the above, what sound like the rantings of a road-rage-fueled lunatic, I’m actually a fairly laid-back sort of driver. Now, anyway. Only after years of frustration and anger at all the idiots on the road did I finally realize that there will always be idiots with drivers’ licenses, they will always be on the road, and about the only thing I can do is chill, stay vigilant, and move on down the road. Still, it doesn’t hurt—indeed, it’s therapeutic—to write some common-sense driving instructions, in the likely futile hope that someone will learn something.

From what I can research, it was Dan Rather, of all people, who said, “Americans will put up with anything, provided it doesn’t block traffic.” Yep, pretty much. So let’s try to remember some of these lessons, so that our—and when I say “our,” I mean, of course, “my”—driving experience can be more safe and pleasurable.

Happy motoring!
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Image: Spaghetti Junction by Ben Ramsey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license, though Google Maps might suggest otherwise and we’d have to take down.
Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel lives in Georgia. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, sailing, and baseball. He has been working on his first novel for about thirty years.  So far, he has written three paragraphs, but they are really good paragraphs.