Sunday, September 21, 2008

Left Turn Permitted

Not too long ago, I read a story about an elderly couple who planned their neighborhood driving in such a way that they totally avoided making left turns, the theory being that they did not feel safe making lefts and preferred instead to take a more relaxed approach to local navigation. This is curious yet understandable, given that people often do not heed traffic signals, to put it mildly.

Here in Atlanta, a city known for its challenging driving, we are seeing a new trend -- people aren't afraid to turn left, that is, until they get into the middle of an intersection, by which time it is entirely too late to back up without incurring significant automobile damage, elevated tempers, and the nightmare of an insurance claim. But why is this?

Just the other day, as I approached a busy local intersection, a motorist two cars in front of me literally stopped 2/3 of the way through making a left turn, leaving the guy in front of me and yours truly hanging out there, hoping for the best. On any given day, the line of traffic making a left turn will slow to a crawl as some driver up ahead, having approached the intersection at light speed, will now slow to a crawl while making that dreaded left turn. The more people in line, the more likely this is to occur. Come on, people.

But I have some theories as to why this is happening:

  • Perspective. Things just don't look the same when turning left as they do when turning right, and to some people, this in and of itself is fascinating and bears closer examination.

  • Gas Prices. Hey, when it costs over four bucks a gallon, who is rushing?

  • The Roller Coaster Effect. Certain people think, while turning left, that they are on a roller coaster and that the car will move by itself to the left with no driver intervention.

  • Text Messaging. Let's say that your good friend Tracy just sent you a text message. Well, you can't simply ignore it, even if it comes in the middle of an intersection.

  • I'm sure there's a good reason for everything I'm seeing, so why am I kvetching? Anyway, I need to run to the grocery, but each of the four closest stores requires a left turn. Oh, no...I can't...wait...I don't have to go...that milk only went out of date yesterday.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Even the Crazies Have to Eat

    I suppose that when you get right down to it, strange is in the eye of the beholder. I'm a fairly flexible guy -- I live in a big city, and certain things are just taken for granted. In most cities, there are neighborhoods that have a reputation for hosting the more theatrical types. They're entertaining to visit, and in many cases, they make downright nice places in which to live. Our suburban neighborhoods come with their own rather predictable casts of characters. The suburban versions drive minivans, drink Yellow Tail wine, and play a lot of golf -- that sort of thing.

    But lately, there seems to have been an unusual development, or maybe it's just that it's always been there and we've only now started to notice. It appears that at certain times of the day, generally the later the better, you've got a whole different cast appearing in the revue. My daughter noticed it first. One night, we were out and about in the suburbs when we decided to stop into the Kroger supermarket for a few items. We made our purchases, and when we got back to the car, my daughter said, "Wow, Dad...did you notice all the sketch people in there?" Well, as a matter of fact, on that particular night, I certainly did. Indeed, it was hard to miss them. They weren't ordinary sketch, they were a cut above.

    The same thing happened again the other day at the BP station. We were sitting there in an overtly suburban neighborhood when two odd people in a late model luxury car pulled up for some overpriced gas and started wandering around the pumps -- not really pumping any gas, just browsing, if you will. But hey, it was all good. They weren't bothering anyone, and strange people have to fill up their gas tanks, too. At least that's the way we see it. There are certain things that everyone -- regardless of planetary origin, costume, or mental stability -- just has to do.

    This stuff is to be expected, because it's not like we live in the middle of nowhere. In fact, Atlanta is often more like being in an ant colony, albeit one with nice landscaping. There are just so many people around that some of them are bound to be out there on the fringe. Any of you who have been here recently know that we probably have at least one of your transplanted relatives living among us. Hopefully, it's one you like, because otherwise, it's probably one of these people that we're seeing meandering about the cookie aisle in a state of delirium.

    Speaking's 10:30 PM, and I need to go to the Kroger, but I guess I'd better pick out something a little bit flashy to wear. After all, you never know who you're going to run into over there.