National Issue # 8: Crazy Drivers

My friend Joe Misek ( posted this, and it is SO good that I had to "borrow it" and post it here:
About two years ago, I realized something very interesting about intersections in the Chicago area. I grew up in the suburbs, and was a converted city-lover and city-dweller (unfortunately, due to the location of my job and the desire for a low-insanity commute, I live again in the suburbs). I was used to the yellow light at intersections being of a certain length of time, maybe 4-5 complete seconds. When I moved to the city, I found that those yellow lights are MUCH quicker, maybe 2, at most 3 seconds long.So I had to adjust, but as time has gone on, I've observed that the yellow light has a unique way of sectioning the human race into several distinct categories.

We've all heard some cranky old guy say, "There's two kinds of people in this world..." Well, I'm going to be the cranky old guy, and the yellow light is going to be the knife that cuts the species into "kinds of people".

First of all, about 95% of drivers in the Chicago area morph into a completely different person once they get behind the wheel. It's like Jeckle/Hyde, or the dude that turns into the Incredible Hulk. When Johnny Q Driver from Chicago turns on his prized vehicle, he becomes King Johnny "I Own this ______ Road!" Psycho guy. They only pay attention to the road when the events of the road interrupt their cell phone conversation, but when they do pay attention, they take ridiculous chances.

Anyway, the yellow light.

There are two kinds of drivers in the Chicago area. There are those precious few that see the yellow light, and they gauge where how fast they are going and how close they are to the intersection, and make every effort to slow down. The others, upon seeing a yellow light, hit the accelerator so hard that they pound their foot through the floor of their car and bust open a pothole in the concrete below. I think that's how some potholes are created. They come from the lead feet of crazed drivers.

For so many drivers, the yellow light signifies the start of some kind of Prozac-fueled arcade video game. I've seen stupid truck drivers hit the gas when they are approaching the intersection and know that they will not make it... so they will honk their horn as if to announce, "I'm an idiot but I don't want to hurt anybody, so please inconvenience yourself and wait for another second after your green light because I'm going to commit a traffic crime and blow through this red light like deluded monkey." Why is that driver in a hurry? I'm sure he's paid hourly... wouldn't his patience pay off in the end?

The other thing about the yellow light that drives me insane is the people waiting at the light to make a left turn. This is where the sense of entitlement overcomes even the most generous old lady. There may be two cars in the middle of the intersection waiting for the other direction to clear so that they can make the left turn. But of course, since everyone blows through the yellow light, all the way up until it turns red, then those other cars have to make their turn after their light turns red. But it's never just the two cars in the intersection. I've seen car #3, car #4, and BIG HUGE STRETCH LIMOSINE #5, all gas it and turn, while the cars in the other direction sit there and wait (and honk) while these selfish, impatient wonks joyride through.

And I love how that very last car turning acts. That last driver will actually make that left turn sharper, so that the car is actually behind and to the left of the car in front of it. This almost shields the last car behind the previous car from the oncoming (well, wanting to on-come) traffic. This is so crappy, because this basically says, " I'm going to hide behind this other car here, so hopefully no one will notice me. And if you do, just know that I'm trying to get through as fast as I can so that you can go through sooner. But I have to go, and you have to wait, because I'm entitled. Hey, I'm doing the best I can, and I'm doing it for you." And this is absolutely terrible in the city because there's so little yellow light time to allow turns.

And where are the cops? No cops watching the intersections. They like to sit out in a long stretch of road, conveniently located in front of a Dunkin Donuts, and wait for someone to go 5 mph over the speed limit. They have no idea just how used and abused the yellow light gets.

You see? The yellow light divides this country.

And the yellow light is reflective of the driver's personality. Selfish risk-takes gun it. Folks that are cool, calm, and collected (and haul their butts out of bed on time so that they can get to work on time without a hitch) can respect the yellow light. By what I remember from driver school, the yellow light is for the traffic in the intersection (not approaching the intersection...) to clear so that left turns can be made and for the intersection to be free and safe for the next direction of traffic. So, folks, let's evolve in our humanity and respect the yellow lights. It will make us a better race of people.

By the way, I'm not going to comment on where I fit in the yellow line divide.

Please visit Joe's blog, and tell him that I invited you "over".

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