For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
DRIVE ME CRAZY
by Nancy Rechtman
I am a transplant. Meaning I am not native to South Carolina or even to the Southern half of our country. I have been uprooted from living in various parts of the country several times in my life and each time I have grown new roots, worshipped the sun, and craved water. Moving to South Carolina over ten years ago was a move unlike any other, since the South is an entity unto itself, both in language and in culture. The first year here, we did a "small" remodeling project (let those words ring alarm bells in your head). That year it rained hard and often, unlike last year when we were known to do rain dances outside on hot summer nights, hoping to create some sort of cooling breeze. The strangest things I can remember about that construction nightmare are: 1) living for three months with a backhoe as the centerpiece of my backyard, 2) seeing red clay everywhere (having only lived in cities where dirt was synonymous with the color brown) and 3) having to actually translate a question my Southern contractor had for my Boston roofer because they couldn't understand each other. And that brought home that I wasn't in Kansas anymore - or ever, actually.
Don't get me wrong. I love living here. Having inhabited major cities on both coasts, I prepared for my first drive to downtown by giving myself forty-five minutes, optimistic by most big-city standards, from our home. Five minutes later, I was at the end of the interstate right smack in the heart of downtown. I couldn't believe it! I could go almost anywhere I wanted from any location and be there in less than half an hour! I felt like I had won the lottery. Well, not really, but it did feel pretty good.
That being said, I have a few gentle observations about driving around town which always seem to make my head want to explode.
- The street names change more often than my kids do on a hot summer day. You may think you are on one street. You keep driving and look up at the street sign, not having turned right or left, and the street name has changed. You start getting nervous. You look up again, knowing you haven't veered off course. There is yet another name. Did you doze off at the wheel or enter some strange time/space continuum?
- With all the construction going on around town, even if you think you know where you're going, you probably don't. So if I think I'm getting on the interstate from a particular road to a nearby town, no I'm not. Ramp closed. The sign says to use the a certain major roadís ramp as an alternate. Yeah, if I want to get there tomorrow. Maybe I'll head downtown, but skip the interstate and take the streets instead. I am almost there and I'm heading for the downtown ramp... no, I'm not. It's not there anymore. If I take another major road, well, I can't even figure out where the ramps are, let alone where they lead to. Maybe I'll just sit here and pound my head on the steering wheel for awhile.
- The traffic signals are timed to cause the maximum amount of frustration in a minimum amount of time. Let's say I am coming from the airport, having picked up some out of town friends visiting our fair city. Wow, they remark, your airport is so convenient! So easy, like a trip to the mall. I smile smugly. Yup, life here sure is nice. We get to the traffic signal at the off-ramp. I want to turn right. I sit calmly as the traffic rolls past me and the light stays red. We discuss the weather. We discuss how their trip was. We discuss the history of the world. The light is still red. Great, it just turned green - I can go now! No, I can't because the light to the right has turned red and has backed up traffic into North Carolina. Maybe someone will let me in if I can just inch forward and look pitiful enough. OK, maybe not. Maybe we can ditch the car and walk over to Bi-Lo to get something to eat while we're waiting for the light to change.
A nearby street that changes names 3 times within about a mileís span is another example of lights timed to waste as much gas and time as possible. You think you are actually going to move as you cross the major intersection. Just as you approach the first light, it turns red. You accelerate when the light turns green, go a block, and that light turns red. You are sure you will make the light after that because you have only gone one block and why in the world would lights be timed so you can only go a block at a time? Although you are pushing the speed limit with all your might, when you get there, the light is once again...red.
And, in keeping with our drive down this particular road, I would be negligent if I didnít mention trying to cross the intersection with another major road when all the cars are running all the lights. Feel free to fill in the names of your own favorite little stretches of Purgatory in your town.
- If you are driving at a speed any less than ten miles above the posted speed limit, you will have cars riding your bumper so intimately that an engagement ring should be mandatory. And those driving an SUV will actually roll over the car in front of them in order to pass it.
- Talking on a cell phone means that you have the right to go as slowly as you want as you approach an intersection, but then get to race through the yellow light, leaving all the drivers behind you cursing as they are stuck sitting at a red light, pounding their heads on their steering wheels in unison. Which might explain these constant headaches.
See additional columns in the archive
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.