Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers, Part 2

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was the second of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. Obviously, since the audience was for a local town, many of the references may be obscure to everyday readers, but no doubt, and especially if you come from a town in the same predicament as Macclenny, you will see some similarities around you.]

Whether it’s winter or summer, a cold and brisk morning or a hot, air conditioned noon, driving has become a necessity to almost every activity we need to do today. If it’s not at home, you need to have a vehicle of sorts to get there. This is a foreign mentality to metropolitan dwellers. Having lived in NYC for a year and a half, I never once really needed to drive anywhere; public transportation was my friend. However, coming back to my hometown proved itself to be a sober reminder of the importance of self-controlled travel. The gas prices were extra somber-ing. I guess what I’m getting at with this is: Driving is a necessity in Macclenny. People have to drive. That is a fact that cannot be changed. However, personal habits about driving may need some tweaking.

Thus I present Reminders: Part Two. As a continuation from my first five reminders, please also note the following “Good Things to Remember Whilst Driving”:

6) Intersections and the Red Sign. What is baffling is that there is only one word on that “Red Sign”. Even if you didn’t know what the word itself meant, the shape of the sign is universal for telling individuals something. Cease. Halt. Do not proceed any further. Fully administer your brakes. Do not pass GO. Certainly do not collect $200. In fact, if there’s a policeman around, you might end up forfeiting currency. “There’s no (or not much) traffic,” one reasons to himself. “Why, the mere concept of coming to a complete stop here is unnecessary.” Where the sentiment may be based on facts, that still doesn’t mean that a person should slow to half-speed and coast through in Scott Hamilton fashion. A stop is required by law, and is a courtesy to everyone else around (namely, me.) It takes all of three or four extra seconds to perform this task, I really doubt Jerry Seinfield would mind if you missed one of his jokes on his show. (It would be nice to point out at this point that Exit 335 westbound does not have a yield sign anymore. It really doesn’t matter if traffic seems a bit backed up—I’d prefer not to swerve off of the bridge to miss someone, seeing as how that’s the only place for me to go. Thank you.)

7) The Red Pill or the Blue Pill, You only get one. You remember the movie Alice in Wonderland (or for some of the younger audience members, The Matrix)? The protagonist had a choice between two separate pills. Specifically in The Matrix, Neo could only choose one. (I can’t remember if Alice had both or not, it’s been awhile). The point of this illustration is that, sometimes in life when we have two choices, common sense and decency dictates we should only make one of those. Places that have two lanes, in my honest opinion, are two separate choices. Based on our destination, it is inevitable that we would have to merge between these lanes every now and then. Usually, this should only take place in a town like Macclenny once a day. Twice at most. I think some of you see where I’m going with this. Those drivers who are pretending to be Luke, Hans, or Lando, darting in and out of traffic to make an extra 20 seconds of time, rate very high on the nuisance-o-meter. I can sympathize that you are late for work. I know that the truck in front of you is doing “10 under the speed limit”. What I care about is the fact that I’ve seen people drive more carefully on Super Mario Kart for Nintendo (see also reminder 4 from last post). None of us want to be out driving in this traffic, trust me. We’ll get out of your way—just give us a minute… and don’t drop a gigantic banana peel in my way, if you can help it.

8 ) Proper Parking Lot Etiquette. You may be surprised to learn this, but I actually do remember a time when I was not afraid to go through a parking lot. I might have even been so bold as to change the radio station or put a new CD in while moving! Now, though, much like a mouse at Pet Smart, I have to keep my alert set to 360 degrees. My only real thought about this is why on earth are people going more than 25 MPH through parking lots!? Are there people afraid that if they don’t get inside the store within the next thirty seconds that the store will sell out of the one thing they need? I literally hold my breath every time I back out of a parking place now, watching out for Mario on his Go-Kart (see above). Once again, I know everyone is in a hurry. We only have 1,440 minutes every day, and no one wants to waste one of those in a parking lot. This also goes for drivers who knowingly go the wrong way down a parking aisle to get to an open spot before others. (It’s fairly easy to tell whether you are going the wrong way—if the spots are bent away from you, requiring you to back-up and try again once or twice, you’re going the wrong way). And, of course with that said, try to park straight. Many are irritated when we “see that open spot” and rush to get there, only to see the reason it’s open is because 10% of the neighboring car is relaxing there.

9) With the patience of a kid in a candy store… Come 5 PM every day, I, like many others, find myself in a long conga-esque line of cars ranging from St. George to Gainesville. I want to get home, as does every other car in line. Statistically, more than 80% of these cars are filled with individuals also getting off from work right now. Undoubtedly, then, we are all tired and cranky, wishing to be at home in our easy chair watching Jimmy Neutron or perhaps a Reality-Based show. In fact, if Jimmy were real, he probably could concoct some sort of hover car that would allow us to get home quicker. Alas, we are bound to our normal cars and roads. Which means it will take some time to get home. So pack your favorite CDs or set the radio to your favorite music station (Might I suggest the calming 90.9 FM, for easy listening). Bring along a smooth, relaxing drink or perhaps, much like a commercial, pack a Baby Ruth or Crunch bar (so long as you aren’t eating it while in motion—see reminder #5) Think about what you’re going to do this weekend, or even this evening. Daydream about your loved ones or hanging out with your friends. Just relax. We’ll all get home soon enough, and we’d all like to get there without being in a sour mood after having people almost side-swipe us getting into traffic.

10) Above all else, just follow the signs. This is more or less for emphasis. The Florida D.O.T., to the shock and surprise of many of us, actually wants to help us and wants us to be safe. To wit, they have posted signs that, when followed, allows traffic to proceed at the swiftest and most organized method while still ensuring the safety and mental health of all drivers. So, as a gesture of kindness, even if token, try to go 45 MPH when the sign says 45 MPH. If the sign asks you to stop, please take a moment, if only for the sign. Mr. Yield would have you kindly make sure you do not inhabit the same space as another car when coming off of the (70+ MPH) Interstate. Dr. School Crossing cares about our children, and even is so nice that we only have to slow down more at certain times. Mr. Railroad Crossing, though a little more stern with his gargantuan arms, acknowledges that a 55 MPH train (weighing in at 70 billion tons) would do more than scratch our Volvo. Some of the sign community are even generous enough to let us know that we’re going to be seeing more signs soon, such as the Slow Down Ahead type sign. The signs want us to be happy, can’t we all just get along? Shouldn’t we listen to them? They’d listen to us if they had ears.

Monday, March 24, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was the first of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. Obviously, since the audience was for a local town, many of the references may be obscure to everyday readers, but no doubt, and especially if you come from a town in the same predicament as Macclenny, you will see some similarities around you.]

It has come to the attention of many residents of Baker County that Macclenny is growing by leaps and bounds. With new stores on the front-burner, ready to be built (as well as those freshly built, such as our new Wal-Mart Supercenter), we are looking less and less like the small town, backwoods community we used to be. This has been good for many things. But, it has also brought certain unavoidable (and obvious) annoyances.

My primary annoyance is the somewhat amazing circumstance that some of Baker County's residents somehow forgot how to drive. They obviously know enough to pass the state's requirements to have a license (or did at one time). However, this would amount the knowing the different of green and red.

Now, I'm not saying everyone, or even the majority, of drivers in Macclenny are borderline maniacal. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that I encounter one or two 'sane' drivers on my way to work every morning. I know that most vehicle operators intend to drive safely and correctly, but I believe the pressures of a growing community, and subsequent growing number of cars and (especially) trucks, has caused even the levelest-headed person to become like Spongebob Squarepants driving a boat. Even I have been guilty of this from time to time. Therefore, I set aside a few minutes of my day today to compile a brief reminder to help us contemplate how we drive. And who knows--maybe this will save someone from getting a 'reckless endangerment' driving ticket.

1) Speed is relative-The signs usually help a little.
When I started driving, Highway 121 was 35 MPH all the way past US 90 and practically out to the fair grounds. Someone was kind enough to notice we have more lanes now and helped out by increasing the speed limit to 45. So class, everyone repeat with me now. ----45 MPH.---- Not 20 MPH. Not 60 MPH. Though we can easily pass or dodge to compensate for these extremes, it makes things a little easier to go if we just follow the signs. This, by extension, also includes that stretch of 121 by the schools. Did you know that it gets slower there? Amazing. Who'd have thought that places where kids cross the road multiple times throughout the day have speed decrements. The above rule can be applied here too. Best rule of thumb: watch for those white rectangular signs.

2) Lane Definitions--What the yellow lines mean.
Once upon a time, if a Macclenny driver saw yellow, it meant one of two things: A yellow light meant slow down (or speed up for some of us), and a yellow line meant "Do Not Cross" unless you are turning in to someplace on your left-hand side. Then along came the turning lane. An entire stretch of 8 to 10 feet wide concrete that drivers could actually use to prepare to turn in to a left-hand side place. However, this has obviously confused some people. For instance, the turning lane is not a PARKING SPACE. It's reasonable to expect sometimes a person has to go "half way" because of the bulk of traffic. However, much like the Basketball Shot Clock, you are expected to do SOMETHING after so long. It's a tad unreasonable if you're coming out of [the old] Wal-Mart turning left to make sure it's clear back to Waffle House before getting back into the flow of traffic. As a corollary, however, I would prefer you not pull out in front of me so that I have to (once again) test my Anti-Lock Braking System (tm). Once again, balance is needed. And for the love of God, please do not pass me in the turning lane!

3) Where the Intersection begins... Anybody?
Some have keenly observed that an intersection is actually shaped like a box. This could be perhaps those in charge of road development have actually put a box in the middle of every intersection. This may be confusing to some, so I would like to explain what this box is for. If the traffic light is red, you must stop before entering said box. This includes your tire, bumpers, and definitely the chassi of your car. Rolling stops also do not count in the big book of traffic laws (this is actually something I happen to be guilty of... bad me). The biggest occurrence of this violation come from "psychic drivers". These individuals try to "time when the lights will change". What actually ends up happening is that the driver is smack-dab in the middle of the intersection when the light DOES turn green. This is provided it does turn green and not give your adjacent associates a green arrow. Please hold one for one more parsec of a second so that you verifiably have a green light before proceeding. I, as well as the Florida State Patrollers, will be grateful.

4) Something I learned back in Kindergarten--Be Nice.
The other day I was at the intersection of Lowder and Hwy 121, in line like usual, when I noticed someone in the turn lane opposite Wachovia, wanting (what it would appear) to turn around to the other direction. Wanting to do my good deed of the day, I left enough space between me and the car in front of me so that he could squeeze in. Instead of getting in front of me, he shot over to the right (empty, because it ends right there) lane and blatantly forced himself into the other lane at the light. This, of course, was uncalled for. However, this happens in many situations around town, and even more often it would seem. Treating their vehicle much like James Bond treated his Astin Martin in every chase scene the movies portrayed, drivers hurl their cars into spaces that practically defy physics. Needless to say, Advanced Autos better stock up on brake pads over the next few years. Patience is a virtue and my horn needs a rest. Please be nice.

5) And Finally, for the love of everything Decent, PAY ATTENTION!
Put the cell phone and the Big Mac down. Leave the song alone, no matter how annoying Toby Keith is. Stop arguing with your passenger, just let her/him be right for five seconds. The piece of paper in your floorboard was there when you got in, just leave it alone for now. If you have a laptop open in the seat next to you, why are you driving to begin with? The book or newspaper will not change when you get out of your car. The witty marquee sayings aren't all that clever. The joggers are there for exercise, not for horn blowing practice. There is no life-threatening need for mints, gum, snacks, drinks, or anything that involves unwrapping, untwisting, or placing in front of your face while you open your mouth.

Just...please...pay...attention. Please.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In My Honest Opinion

Coming Soon...

Hey all, I'm just registering this blogspace ahead of time. In the next week or so, i'm migrating some satire editorials I've done about life in general. I'd like to get back into it, but also would like a nice new home for them. This page will most likely not be updated on a regular basis as my other blog, The Sorta-Motivational Poster Blog at http://sortamotivational.blogspot.com. That blog was first, and... well... kind of deserves my attention in first order. (Not to mention the idea is much cooler than dumb old editorials.) I will be posting my older 'essays' here gradually. I'll be sure to put updates on the SMP blog as they arrive.

Just stay tuned.