[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.