Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yield Does Not Mean Stop

Yield Does Not Mean Stop. That’s my mantra when I drive around Middlebury, Vermont, the town where I live and work.  I appreciate that people take their time here. It’s real nice to let the other person cut in ahead of you as long as that’s what you feel like doing; but the traffic dynamic here is hardly dynamic. The cars moooove more like cows.  They mosey, they putt-putt, they dawdle in order to appreciate the lovely countryside that graces either side of most roads, or to people-watch and wave hello to friends meandering the sidewalk. Perhaps these drivers move slowly to avoid going back to work or returning home.  All of this is fine – unless I, too, am on the road, doing errands on a lunch hour.

 Middlebury's lovely rotary. Looks pretty, right? But road rage Vermont-style happens here.

For instance, there’s the rotary in town that not one native seems to know how to navigate. Perhaps those who moved away to the city and have returned comprehend rules of the road, but it’s hard to tell who might be behind the wheel of the car in front of you - unless you read bumper stickers, for these stickers directly reflect the philosophies and temperament of a vehicle's driver. Bumper sticker reading is a precise science that indicates who is liberal (Eat More Kale) and will wait for every blessed pedestrian within half a mile to cross the road.  Drivers with “flags and ribbons” stuck to their car bumper simply don’t read the rules of the road, nor do they care. There are those who bandy the sticker, “I break for tailgaters” which really pisses me off – don’t they get that if they drove faster and kept traffic flowing I wouldn’t tailgate to begin with? And that I only tailgate when behind a BAD driver?  To identify those who keep traffic flowing in an orderly fashion, a/k/a GOOD drivers, you will see NO ridiculous stickers adhered to their car bumpers. 

 My favorite bumper sticker of all time

Rules of the Rotary:
As you approach a rotary, assess the oncoming vehicles from the left. Examine the driver’s face. Does he look like he wants to turn? Go straight? Is it only me? Because I am able to determine these nuances in an individual, but then, I have witch-like, supernatural powers. Seriously. Gauge the speed of the vehicle. Watch closely and you will know very quickly if this driver intends to take the rotary or go straight. Then make your move accordingly.  Rotaries are designed to keep traffic flowing – they are not a four-way stop although I know, I know – Vermonters so adore their four-ways.

If  a driver in front of you stops cold, refuse to cooperate. There are ways to handle this idiot (aside from rear-ending him.) In Jersey, one simply lays on the horn and screams profanities – curse words that are creative, mean-spirited, and meant to be heard.  As a Vermonter, I’ve learned that use of the car’s horn must never be employed. One never knows at whom she is honking.  Population is scant here – and the person ahead of you is likely to be your friend, or your boss.

The drivers that really get to me are those who cause me to break needlessly so that the contents of my handbag spill onto the floor. I bide my temper. No yelling, no honking. Instead, the anger must be processed. It is recommended that one keep a bottle of Stress Remedy (purchased at the co-op) in her car at all times. Use liberally. I have learned it’s okay to reserve a light tapping on the horn for those who recklessly disobey rotary etiquette. It must sound soft, like a dove cooing, a friendly, gentle “get the eff out of my way” sound.  When I first moved here, I’d slip and swear readily. Now, even on a winter’s day although fellow drivers might not hear my cursing because the windows are closed, it’s likely they will lip read from their rear view mirror and witness the swear words, the snakes and snails -  that fall from my mouth. Then I think, “ah, that’s my Jersey showing.” It’s not pretty and I’m not proud. 

 Don't freak out over bad drivers. Take a chill pill. Lots of Middlebury drivers rely on this stuff to get them through town on a busy day.

A colleague once told a story about waiting in a line of traffic at the big rotary north of town. The vehicle behind her was manned by an obviously irate driver. He laid on his horn because she didn’t turn left at an opportunity he apparently judged available. I bet he’s a transplant and originally lived in New Jersey or at least New York City, just a guess. Afterward, the two drivers simply continued on to their respective destinations. Later that evening, my colleague got a phone call. It was the man who had been behind her in traffic.  He knew who she was.  Of course, when he identified himself, she knew him, as well.  They were colleagues, who worked at the same institution. He apologized for losing his temper. She laughed.  His Jersey may have been showing earlier that day, but in the end, his Vermont driver’s heart won out. 

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