Over the last several months, however, my drive to work has been increasingly frustrating.
Now, you say, how can that be, since you live out there in the country* where, if you see fifty cars in a sixteen-mile one-way commute, it's a busy day?
I'll tell you how, after acknowledging that my gritted teeth probably have more to do with the fact that I don't want to go there than with the situations herein described, but be that as it may...
When I was a drunk, I sometimes drove my vehicle while under the influence (she admitted, shamefaced). I knew enough to scrupulously obey every traffic law and good-sense rule of which I was aware. I stopped at stop signs for four seconds ("1, 2, 3, 4"), looked back and forth several times before proceeding. I always signaled my turns well in advance. I stayed far behind the car preceding me down the road, knowing my reaction time was, perhaps(!), faulty. I never drove over the speed limit. I became religious in my use of the car's cruise control. If the sign said "30MPH" I set the control at 30. On the interstate, where the speed limit is 65, I always always (well, mostly always) drove at 65MPH. By these methods I managed never to be stopped for any traffic infraction and never got busted for driving while impaired.
Those habits hang on. In particular the speed limit one. I know, within about twenty feet, give or take, the location on each of my regular routes where the speed limits change from 50 to 55, to 65, to 45, to 30, and finally back to 45, before I arrive at the office. I believe that it is efficient, as well as law-abiding, to travel at the posted speed limit.
The people who dawdle along on a two-lane, no-passing road at 45, where they could travel at 50 . . . bother me. (I'm not talking about farmers on tractors; I like to roll along behind them at a leisurely pace. That means Country to me . . . unless they're just coming back from spreading manure . . . I don't enjoy that quite so much.)
And the people who see me, three hundred feet away, rolling toward them at the prescribed 55MPH . . . why, O why, must they turn left into my lane so that I have the choice of rear-ending them or braking? It breaks my rhythm. Where that happens most often is at the mini-mart near the entrance to the interstate; there isn't enough space for me to "resume speed" on the cruise control before I make my left turn there. Very inefficient.
Once I was following a woman through the village. I was pleased that we both were toddling along at 30MPH, nicely spaced, nicely arranged. My right turn appeared; I turned on my directional signal. Her right directional signal went on too. She braked, slowed. And slowed. And slowed. And slowed! I was at a dead stop behind her. We were turning right! My head dropped forward on my neck, my jaw slackened, my eyes widened, and I said to her from safe within my car, "When making a right turn, first: Come to a Compleeeete Stop." Snidely, I said that. But she couldn't hear me so she wasn't insulted. As I rolled my eyes, I caught the gaze of a man waiting to turn out of the street into which the woman and I were both turning. He had seen me, and since I was enunciating very clearly, he had read my lips and knew my frustration. He shook his head and grinned in sympathy. I burst into giggles.
The drivers who really make me crazy are the ones who meander along varying their speed at random, now 40, now 45, now 35. I want them to choose a speed and stick to it, so I can set my cruise and stop trying to anticipate their next adjustment. They don't appear to be sightseeing, and they know I'm back there. What's wrong with them?
The state department of transportation is working on a bridge very near the entrance ramp I use. The workers have put up a YIELD sign and concrete barriers and traffic cones by the hundreds to direct everyone to merge into one lane where there used to be two, and where the ramp joins the road at a twenty-degree angle, as illustrated in "d - Tapered acceleration lane -Option 2" below. Is that even twenty degrees? It's tight, anyway.
What is irksome is that on random days, the YIELD sign is replaced by a STOP sign. Now look: it's tough enough to YIELD to somebody when we are all moving. To STOP and then start again requires me not only to use my mirrors, but to spin my head around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. My head doesn't turn that far; I have to close my right eye and peer left-eyed over my left shoulder. Usually there's nobody coming (see * above), which makes the resulting neck sprain even more annoying.
Most bewildering of all are the big trucks. Those five-ton dump trucks that have signs on the back telling me "DO NOT FOLLOW. CONSTRUCTION VEHICLE."
If I turn onto a road behind them, how am I to get to work?