Down Home Road Rage

I was born and raised in the South.  Two years ago, I moved to Indianapolis and began my field study of life north of the Mason-Dixon line.  Even the Midwest is a bit of a culture shock to a grits-and-gravy southern boy, but overall I’m very happy here.  I’ve learned several things in my two years in Indiana, most notably that sweet tea is a taste not yet acquired by all people, not everyone calls shopping carts “buggies”, the weather here changes every five minutes, and you can tell what month it is by height and color of the corn crops.  But there is one lesson I’ve learned above all others…

People in Indiana don’t know how to freaking drive.

I grew up in the foothills of the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains.  Our roads were curvy and hilly.  Indiana is flat, almost depressingly so if you’re used to a mountainous backdrop, which means that the roads here are long and straight.  Where I live now, the numbered roads go east and west, and the named roads go north and south.  I actually like this setup because it made it much easier to learn my way around.  However, the grid of two lane roads makes for a lot of four-way stops.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing except for 90% OF THE PEOPLE HERE DON’T KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE A SIMPLE FOUR WAY STOP!

For those of you who didn’t learn this at the age of fifteen (a population I was unaware existed until two years ago), when you approach a four-way stop, you proceed in the order in which you arrived at the intersection.  Not hard.  However, when the average Indiana driver approaches a four-way stop intersection they typically react thusly:

File photo

File photo

I would like to break down the different categories of idiots who can’t handle the simplest of traffic situations:

The “Holy Crap What Do I Do Now I Can’t Make A Simple Decision On My Own?!” Driver

This particular type of road warrior could be a Harvard graduate, but when they see that stop sign, their intelligence level reverts to a state best described as “in the womb”.  They sit with a deer-in-headlights expression on their face as approximately 3,452 cars go through the intersection.  Meanwhile, the line behind them stretches all the way to a small Canadian village called Les Mechins (translation: The Mechins), while every driver behind them is two seconds from snapping like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”.  Finally, after a period of 3 1/2 to 4 hours, the terrified driver plows through the intersection full speed with their eyes closed, narrowly avoiding other vehicles and the nice old man with the jumper cables who was attempting to jumpstart what he thought was a broken down 1998 Saab.

The “Oh Crap I Was On My Cell Phone and I Don’t Know Whose Turn It Is” Driver

This self-absorbed Sunday driver approaches the intersection with a phone stuck in one ear, completely wrapped up in what is obviously the most important conversation on the planet.  Judging by the complete lack of attention paid to the road, I can only assume that this person is discussing the development of a new chocolate-flavored corn hybrid that simultaneously ends our dependence on foreign oil and cures AIDS.  When their turn finally arrives, they are snapped back into reality (courtesy of my horn) and sit shell-shocked for a few seconds before trying to telepathically communicate with the other three drivers “Can I go now?  Now?  My turn?  Now??  Is it my turn?”.  By the time they realize it’s their turn to go, I’ve usually pushed them through the intersection with my bumper.  Nicely, but firmly.

The “If I Don’t Look At the Stop Sign I Don’t Have To Obey It” Driver

This person is more important than you.  Much more important.  They can’t be bothered by silly things such as traffic laws and personal safety.  This person treats right-of-way as something to be taken by force.  Mercy (and merging) are for the weak.  If you see this person approach the same intersection you are approaching, stop immediately, because they aren’t.  Sometimes as a courtesy, they will slow down to 55 mph as they go through the intersection, and if you are lucky enough to experience this, they expect a thank-you wave.

However, the state of Indiana has found a way to make sure that all drivers come to a complete stop at all intersections.  They have replaced many of the four-way stops that have so confused their citizenry with roundabouts designed to speed up traffic by not even requiring people to stop.  But they stop anyway because one indisputable fact is that people fear the unknown.  And in Indiana, the unknown is an inverted triangle:

Good luck out there.

-ES

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4 Responses to “Down Home Road Rage”

  1. Becky Zessin Says:

    Are you sure you live in Indy and not in Omaha?!?!?! All this seems vaguely familiar! 🙂
    Love it!

  2. Emilie Says:

    I laughed so hard last night when I read this and then cried this morning as the guy in front of me in line for the roundabout yielded to the entire city of Carmel before venturing into the roundabout, at 5 miles an hour mind you.

  3. Emilie Says:

    Oh and btw, people here in Indy think they are from the South too… I am from the MidWest (Illinios…yes the S is silent) and we learned that Ohio and Indy were some of our MidWest brethren. Folks here seem to get upset if you call ’em MidWesteners. Don’t get that one either.

  4. Rhonda Says:

    I loved this post! Being a UPS driver, I see ALL kinds of drivers every day. The hardest part of my day is not lifting heavy packages or dealing with angry customers – it is watching out for all the crazy drivers on the road. We won’t even talk about when it rains! As a UPS driver, we are instructed to NEVER give hand signals, such as, “Go ahead, you were here at this 4 way stop 20 seconds before I was.” I just have to sit there politely, and then when I finally do go, they about run into the side of my truck. As you can see, you touched a nerve talking about stupid drivers. I could go on, but I’ll leave the ranting to you……

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