Turn signals and all that


Any place you go, there are different driving styles. In Los Angeles, I was very careful to always turn on my turn signal and let it cycle at least twice before turning or merging into the other lane. The drivers in Los Angeles are aggressive, but everyone knows everyone is aggressive and expects it. Using turn signals was required not because you were smart, but because everyone else was dumb with distractions and aggression.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there's still the aggressive driving, but no where near the level of Los Angeles. In SF, you wouldn't turn left between two oncoming cars unless there was three car lengths between the cars. For comparison, in Los Angeles, you need only one and a half car lengths, even when cars are going 50mph.

Driving around here, I'm far more relaxed, causing my signal turning routine to soften. I haven't been using my turn signals at all if there isn't anyone behind me when I move into lanes. I hadn't really noticed until it was mentioned to me, in the most approachable criticism I've received about my driving in a long time.

"I'm surprised how much your lack of turn signals bothers me."

How's that for approachable criticism?

It addresses the issue: my lack of turn signals.

It doesn't pass judgement. There's no, "You're an awful person for not using turn signals," or "You're going to get us killed from not using turn signals!"

It brings up the topic without accusing me of doing anything wrong.

It gives me the opportunity to see my behavior is affecting others.

The rest of the drive home, I used my turn signals, even when there was no car behind me to see my intended movement. I may have over-used them, if that's possible. I did notice, however that one oncoming car that arrived at a four way intersection at the same time as I did, stopped fully and waited for me to turn. I suspect the left turn signal may have indicated I was going to turn. Normally, I would have just waited for the other car to go.

So, yay, turn signals!

Wronged by doing right


A year or two ago, a new health clinic went in at an empty lot close to my house. When it was approved by voters, I knew that I'd be screwed. Why? Well, just for starters, the spot would see a LOT more traffic than it was seeing (anything greater than zero is more). It would also have a larger number of traffic control signals, which mean, yep, poor timing on the signals, lots of wasted gas waiting for the lights, etc.

Even the announcement that my main doctor would now be officed less than a seven minute walk from my house didn't deter my loud and whiny complaints about this damn facility going in.

My fears have pretty much come true. Traffic has increased probably 200 fold in the morning hours. The lights are HORRIBLY timed. Drivers are morons in the area, thinking it's okay to turn right directly in front of oncoming traffic who has the right of way. Hundreds of man hours are lost waiting for the lights to turn green after waiting for the red light for the non-existant car or walker to cross the street.

Even the grocery store which had provided a decent by-pass put speed bumps into the lot, removing the only decent route to bypass the clusterfuck of the clinic exit.

This morning's commute was a perfect example of why I completely despise this new facility, and all of the lights and traffic signals and traffic and people associated with it: when I do the right thing, I get screwed.

So, there's a stop sign at the corner of the clinic's property. The commute is stop at this stop sign, turn right, go 20 yards and through a stop light that controls traffic from the clinic and grocery store which are on opposing sides of the street, go another 30 yards and turn left at the next stop light, which puts you on the major roadway which leads to an easy access to 2 freeways.

I received a (bogus) ticket at that first stop sign, so I'm very careful to stop at that stop sign within one meter of the intersection. The ticket I received at that stop sign was for when I stopped 20 feet back from the stop sign, then turned right without pulling forward first, despite it being my turn to turn right. Right.

So, as I approached the stop sign, a car was stopped at the stop sign across the intersection facing me. It stayed still as I approached. I stopped completely. The opposing car stayed still. I waited a second, two, four, six, ten. Annoyed, I started to pull forward, just as the car started to move to turn left into the intersection. I stopped, waited for it to turn, then turned right.

Just in time to see the first stop light turn yellow. Too late to accelerate through the stop light, I cursed and stopped at the intersection as the light turned red.

This light is the fucking worst light in the world.

I watched as the light in front of us, the one where I would be turning left if I hadn't done the right thing and waited for the moron in the car to my left turn left in front of me, turned green letting all the traffic go, then turn red again. I waited as the traffic from the clinic flew out of the lot, turning left and cruising through the second light. I watched as the light turned green for the people who were turning right onto the street in front of me. I watched light way in front of me turn red as a woman took 7 of the 32 seconds the walk sign allotted her to cross the street. Then I waited the remaining 25 seconds for no good reason, because there HAD to be a light at that intersection, a fucking light instead of a reasonable stop sign.

If I had just turned right, I would have saved myself the six minutes all of the waiting around I needed to do for those damn red lights. Six minutes times all the other people there, plus the exhaust going into the lungs of all those people walking into the health clinic, mmmmmm, that's tasty, and yes, my day started out completely annoyingly wrong by doing right.

Simply insane


When I was in college, I came back to Indiana for a visit. At one point, out with one of my best childhood friends and her parents, her mother commented that Hoosiers are some of the worst drivers. Ha ha ha, I thought, clearly you haven't driven in L.A.

Ah, to know everything like I used to. That would be great. Great. Just great. It'd be great. (Hi, Kyle!)

I actually haven't driven much in the area. Eh, not quite true, but close. I rode my brother's motorcycle when I was 12 because he told me girls couldn't ride motorcycles. Of course, that was when I didn't know the difference between the brake and the gas and couldn't understand why I kept going faster and faster the harder I turned the brake.

Uh, yeah.

Driving in Valparaiso, sure. I've driven in the town. But not really to the town. Dad or Jenny or Jessica would pick me up from the airport or the bus station closer to home, so I haven't driven to town.

Today, however, I rented a car that I'll drive to Poultry Days, for my first chicken tournament. It seemed to make sense, even though I'm sure had I asked, Dad would have picked me up from the airport, no questions asked.

Using Kris' GPS unit, I plugged in Dad's address and started driving.

And started understanding just what Mary was saying about Hoosier drivers, though I suspect she was talking more about Illinois drivers.

I can honestly say, I've never seen a fully-loaded semitruck with trailer lay on the horn from the second lane, right next to me, nearly ram the car in front of it (admittedly doing only 45 on a 65 mpg speed limit road), swerve around it and accelerate away from us. I can't say I've ever seen a big-rig truck driver exhibit such road rage before.

This, after it nearly swerved left into me.

Did I mention they gave me a minivan? I reserved a compact car, figuring I needed a car big enough to sleep in the back seat, since I surely was NOT bringing a tent to the tournament. Too much to carry, and I prefer showers in the morning. Or so I thought. With all the hotels fully booked for 40 miles in all directions, that backseat is looking mighty comfy.

A few miles later, in my light grey minivan, I watched in train-wreck fascination as a trailerless tractor (Dad tells me that's what they call the front of a semi when it has no trailer attached) zipped in and out of traffic easily driving over 80 in moderate traffic on a construction filled 94.

I'm convinced Illinois is annoyed at people moving to Indiana, and has decided to thwart such commuters by having the entire stretch of road between the two of them under construction at all times.

This, with crazy drivers on the road.

I passed a frighted girl driving 40 in the first lane as traffic whizzed by going over 70 to her right (except me, of course, I was clearly driving ONLY the speeding limit, Dad. Clearly).

I drove behind a man who would drive a quarter mile between the lines painted on the road, then a quarter mile to the left or to the right of them, yet still on the road. I tried flashing my brights at him when he started to swerve off the road. Didn't help much.

I drove in front of a car that reminded me of the summer I worked for my dad, when he handed me a gun to put under the front seat. "I'd rather you be in jail than raped or murdered," he told me, after telling me of the van drivers who were running cars with single women drivers off the road, then raping them. I agreed with him, then showed him how to remove the safety, and how to put it back on.

I flinched as crazy drivers in Escalades came flying up behind my van as I drove with traffic, and watched as they slotted between cars to edge one, two, maybe three cars in front of us in traffic, wondering if I weren't really back in L.A. after all. Did I board the wrong plane?

And I reminded myself that I wasn't in any hurry when cars were flying by me, as I drove the speed limit in the slow lane. I'm on vacation, and didn't need to hurry home. I was in an unfamiliar car, on unfamiliar roads. Just because everyone else is crazy, doesn't mean I need to be, too.

I mean, there are crazies on the road tonight. One of them might even be driving and trying to take pictures at the same time. I mean, come on, that would be nuts.