copyright © 2005 Adrien Monti

Driving me crazy

A northern transplant finds that Roanoke motorists are nice -- to a fault
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By Adrien Monti Special to The Roanoke Times

The Roanoke Times

I recently moved to Roanoke from Syracuse, New York. I don't think Syracuse drivers are known for being especially aggressive. They cut me off now and again. They barge ahead at four-way stop signs. They lay on the horn if I sit too long at a green light. But hey, this makes sense. Probably they have to be somewhere. I appreciate that they're keeping me on my toes. Who knows how much time I might waste stopped at green lights if someone weren't considerately alerting me to my error with forceful repetitive beeping?

Shortly after moving to Roanoke, I had an unusual experience at a four-way stop. When I pulled up, a car across the intersection was already stopped. Clearly this person had gotten there first. Yet she didn't go. Instead, she waved at me to go ahead. I felt uneasy about this, as if it might be some sort of trap. Warily, I proceeded.

The next time this occurred at a four-way stop, I wasn't so nice about it.

The other car had gotten there first, and it was his turn to go. Yet he was not availing himself of his god-given turn. Instead, we seemed to have reached a standstill, both of us stopped, both of us waiting for the other to go. This time I wasn't backing down. GO, I said. Will you please just GO? It's YOUR TURN.

Oblivious to my shouting, he flashed his lights at me, indicating that I should go right ahead. Irritated, I admitted defeat. I went, still muttering under my breath.

A short time later, I was walking from my apartment to the library. It was a leisurely meandering walk. I was admiring the enormous houses of Old Southwest. I chose a random place to cross the street, naturally expecting to cross only when the road was clear of cars. But an approaching driver had other plans. She slowed, and then stopped right in the middle of the street, waving me on. I wasn't at a crosswalk. I wasn't even at a corner. I felt angry, so angry that I considered standing my ground and refusing to take a single step. But she gave a friendly smile, suggesting that she could wait all day, that there was nothing she would enjoy more. I didn't want to do it, but I crossed the damn street.

It is not unusual for me to be in a hurry. I have a tendency to wait until the last possible minute before leaving to go anywhere. One particularly hectic day, I was stopped at a stop sign. Oncoming traffic had no stop sign whatsoever, and I couldn't understand why the car coming my way was slowing down. Until it stopped completely. NO, I shouted, hitting the steering wheel for emphasis, and hitting it hard. I'M STOPPED BECAUSE I HAVE A STOP SIGN. YOU DON'T HAVE A STOP SIGN. WHICH IS WHY YOU NEED TO GO. I'M GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK IF YOU DON'T GO NOW.

But he didn't go, and I couldn't make him. He was so intent on being polite that he was willing to break the laws of traffic, and I was powerless to make him see the error of his ways.

When my family came to visit, I did all the driving. My mother sat next to me, and my sister sat in the back seat. When I waited too long at a green light, they were quick to point it out.

Oh, thanks, I said, and stepped on the gas.

How come nobody honked their horn at you? asked my mom.

I don't know, I said.

I would have honked at you, said my sister.

I know it, I said. I would have honked at myself. I deserved it.

Right, my mom agreed.

Exactly, said my sister.

At the next intersection, I found myself stuck behind someone who apparently didn't notice that the light had turned green.

We sat and waited. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel.

Honk at him, said my sister.

Go on, said my mom. Lay on the horn.


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