An Open Letter to Austin Drivers
Dear Austin Drivers,
Let me start by asking you a simple question: Why are you doing this to me? No, seriously. You probably don’t even know me, so why are you trying to make my life miserable every time I get into my little gold Mazda pickup truck?
I moved here a little over a year ago from Boston. Boston resides in a state where the inhabitants take pride in the fact that they are known as “Massholes,” so I’m sure you can imagine the driving etiquette isn’t the most desirable. Four-letter words are the only driving vocabulary, and when you’re not expressing yourself with one of those words, you’re expressing yourself through the liberal use of your horn.
As annoying as that was, driving was fairly predictable. If you leave space between you and the car in front of you, someone will cut you off. If you don’t go immediately when the light turns green, someone from oncoming traffic will turn left in front of you, or everyone will lay on the horn. If you don’t know where you’re going and you hesitate, God help you.
They drive this way though, because everyone is trying to get somewhere. Until I moved to Austin, I foolishly thought that the reason people drove was to get from Point A to Point B faster than, say, walking or taking public transportation.
Austin Drivers, you’ve proven me wrong. I’m constantly confused by you every time I get behind the wheel.
Let’s just take a few minutes and go over some things, shall we?
- Four-way stop signs. Judging by my experiences at four-way stop sign intersections, it would seem that most of you believe a four-way stop is an opportunity to sit for an extended period of time, staring blankly at the other stopped cars. I hate to burst your people-watching bubble, but this is incorrect behavior. The first person who arrives at a four-way stop should go first. Then the person to his right; then the person to her right and so on and so forth. A four-way stop sign is not an opportunity for a Mexican standoff, regardless of our proximity to Mexico.
- Cell phones. I know Austin is known for its tech industry, so maybe there is a new type of car that you’re all driving that operates only if a cell phone is firmly attached to your left hand and your left ear. Rather than gas, this automobile runs on gab. Oh, no? That’s not it? Well, then surely, every one of you is on your way to the emergency room, and you’re calling your next of kin to alert them of said emergency. No? That’s not it either? THEN HANG UP THE PHONE.
- Making a left turn at a green light. Why, oh why, won’t you pull up into the intersection when the light is green? Why do you want to force us all to have to wait three light cycles while you get up the nerve to make a left turn? Maybe if you inch forward, you can find an opportunity and go for it. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting impatiently behind you, revving my engine, screaming and waving my hands.
- Yield signs. “Yield” doesn’t mean “stop.” I swear I’m not lying to you. You can even consult a dictionary. When you see a yield sign, it’s telling you that oncoming traffic has the right-of-way but that if you look and nobody is there, you can go. You don’t have to stop and look, you just have to look. Once you look, you either stop, or you go, depending on what you saw.
- Inclement weather. During a storm a few days ago, I was driving down North Lamar, and there was a huge bolt of lightning that shot off in the distance. Austin Drivers, you slammed on your brakes. How is slamming on your brakes going to protect you from the Lightning God’s fury? If anything, such a show of force from the sky should make you want to get home. But instead, you want to try to cause an accident by slamming on your brakes. I don’t follow your logic, but I do agree – that lightning was scary.
I know this is a lot to take in. You’ve been driving like an 80-year-old woman for so long, you probably just don’t know what you’re even doing wrong. It’s OK, Austin Drivers. I’m just here to help. The first step is being aware of what you’re doing. Now that you’re aware, you can work on it! You can change, I know you can!
And if not, I’ll start stocking the truck with incense and meditation chant CDs and give myself an extra 20 minutes to get everywhere. Maybe it’s not you, Austin Drivers; maybe it's me.