I live in a state which has a great deal of natural beauty. Particularly along the coast. The weather is rather reasonable for New England. For instance, I have lived here for almost 15 years and I've never seen the temperature go below zero. (That's Fahrenheit, I don't do Celsius or metric, not if I can avoid it. But I'll explain all that someday in a different rant. Today it's all about "Little Rhody.")
There is one thing about Rhode Island that really annoys the hell out of me - the way some Rhode Islanders drive. Mind you, I have driven in many different places and/or observed the behavior of drivers in many states and in many countries.
I have driven from New England to Colorado, from Colorado to Texas (and back), from Colorado to Mississippi.
From Mississippi (in the dead of night) to Nebraska, from Nebraska to Louisiana (and back) and from Louisiana to Florida, round trip, twice. One time originating in Alexandria then on to Fort Walton Beach, another time originating in Pensacola then on to New Orleans (which is how it is spelled, not how it is pronounced).
Eventually we completed the grand tour of the "east of the Rockies" United States by driving from Nebraska to New England. In December. With three "youngish" kids. That trip we broke into three days. (If you ever need to stop and sleep when in Indiana, near South Bend, keep driving until you are well past South Bend. Most of the motels in that neck of the woods seemed designed for drunken football fans. Let me tell you, those folks will tolerate living conditions that some nomadic tribesmen would find wanting.)
I have also driven in Japan, Okinawa to be specific back when Okinawa was the only part of Japan where you drove on the right side of the road, as opposed to the left - which was the side the rest of Japan drove on. Yes, while I was there, they switched. Drove to the barracks one day on the right side of the road, the next day left the barracks driving on the left. After a couple of days of that, I sold the car.
I drove a lot of miles in Europe. Primarily in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
I have observed drivers in the following countries: Canada, Korea, France, the Philippines and Italy. I have also observed drivers from Iran.
Back in the days of the Shah, when they were our allies, we trained many people in the Iranian military. I got to see a lot of Iranian Air Force types while stationed in Denver. Typically they would pool their money and buy a car. One car for like eight guys. All of whom would ride in that car at the same time. None of whom were really very good at operating that car.
And the car itself? I think they would fly old cars from the '50s and '60s up from Cuba. In other words, CRBaPCC, that's right, Cars Rejected By a Poor Communist Country. Cars which even other people (with very few sources of spare parts) had given up on. Cars which these Iranian sergeants would somehow get running again. Not reliably mind you, not ending a journey with all the parts with which they had started the journey still attached to the vehicle, but they managed. Somehow they managed.
Now what does all this about Iranian sergeants have to do with Rhode Island drivers? Those Iranian sergeants were the only guys on the planet I have seen, who drove worse than Rhode Islanders. Not much, but there was a discernible difference.
I know what some of you are thinking, "Really, Rhode Islanders are worse drivers than Italians and Belgians?" Yup, a lot worse. Even worse than the Philippines. But to be fair, in the Philippines I didn't witness any highway traffic, it was all in the city. And you really can't compare a bunch of mopeds, motorized tricycles and Jeepneys with the sort of traffic you see in the U.S. The Filipinos, while not exactly accomplished drivers, weren't cutting each other off, nor running each over, all that much. Then again, I was only there for 17 days.
|This is a Jeepney.|
Note that this photo was not taken in Rhode Island!
Before I go into any great detail about driving in Rhode Island, who do I think are the best drivers on the planet? The Germans, hands down.
Of course, to get one's license in Germany is not easy. You need classroom time and time behind the wheel. German driving schools are not easy. There's a reason there are "no speed limits" on the Autobahn.
Well, technically speaking there are. In some places. Just before I left Deutschland there was a move afoot to institute speed limits everywhere. That was defeated in the Bundestag. Germans feel a God-given right to "go fast." On the other hand Germans like rules. So a compromise was in ordnung. You could still drive as fast as you like on most parts of the Autobahn. However, if you got in an accident AND were traveling faster than 130 kilometers per hour (roughly 80 mph), your insurance company was not liable for any damages or injuries. Germans started driving a little slower after that. (I don't know if that rule is still in place. Whereas Germans are really enamored of rules, they also take great pleasure in breaking the rules they don't like.)
So what annoys me about Rhode Island drivers?
First of all, many of them are not exactly competent. Merging onto a four-lane highway is one of the things they are really bad at. Their method seems to be, "If I don't look in my mirror and just keep driving, the guy already on the highway will either move over, or slow down."
In other words, there is no concept of "yield" in a Rhode Islander's vocabulary.
One might think they did understand the concept of yield when stop signs are involved. Many of them will actually slow down at a stop sign and just keep going if there is no traffic within 50 feet of them. Regardless of the speed of the oncoming traffic. Once again, in Little Rhody it seems that drivers with the right of way are responsible for yielding to the drivers who do not have the right of way.
But truly that doesn't hold in every situation. I have been stopped, at a stop sign, waiting for traffic to clear before I proceed. Only to have some yahoo, with the right of way, slow down or even stop to wave me across the road.
I have also seen this behavior on four-lane streets (two in each direction) in town. People in the left lane proceeding south (let's say) will stop and wave another driver (who is waiting to make a left turn, across traffic) across the road, into traffic still moving in the right lane.
If you refuse to drive into oncoming traffic, the budding (and completely untrained) traffic cop will begin to angrily wave you across the road. As if you are holding him up somehow.
Then there is what I like to call "the Rhode Island Cut." This also takes place on four-lane streets. This can be seen when a Rhode Islander wants to get on the road from a side street but needs to cut across two lanes to get going in the desired direction.
The "Cutter" will gradually ease his/her vehicle into the oncoming lanes until they have first blocked the inside lane and then the outside lane. Traffic in the direction he/she wants to go is still moving along. Until the "Cutter" sees that 15 foot gap in traffic. Then they pull out, causing the frantic application of brakes in one direction and the sounding of horns in both.
Doesn't seem to faze them a bit.
Parking lots are very confusing to Rhode Islanders. There are all those lines, so many choices. So they will park straddling two spaces. Or, when it gets too confusing, they will park directly in front of the business they wish to patronize in the area marked "Fire Lane." Which to many Rhode Islanders means "Go ahead and park here, but turn on your emergency flashers". (I have checked and "Fire Lane" is not Portuguese for "Park Here" - that would be "Estacionar Aqui.")
While there are clearly marked travel lanes in all parking lots in Rhode Island, many Rhode Island drivers don't understand what those are for. If there are no cars parked, why not just cut across all those confusing lines to get out onto the street? Where you could then do a "Rhode Island Cut", drive down a few blocks and then stop to let someone else make a turn across traffic.
Then stop at Dunkin' Donuts, park in the Fire Lane, turn on the flashers, then run in and grab a coffee. Then merrily head home. Oh, make sure you stay in the left lane on the interstate and drive five miles under the limit. The view is apparently much better from there.
(Don't get me started on turn signals. Rhode Islanders don't use them. Ever.)
Now bear in mind, not all Rhode Islanders drive as I have described. Probably not even most of them, just the ones I see, everyday. Especially if I need to be someplace in a hurry.
Question: Why do Rhode Islanders wait an extra ten seconds when the light turns green before proceeding?
Answer: Rhode Islanders won't stop at a red light unless it's been red for at least ten seconds.
At least that's my theory. And yes, a yellow light means "accelerate, the light's about to turn red!"
But don't get me wrong. I love this place. Goofy drivers and all. Truth be told, most of them are okay behind the wheel. The Missus Herself claims that I have "impossibly high standards" and that I'm probably an a-hole. I won't dispute that.
I have my moments.