Friday, August 27, 2010

Five Things on Friday - Driving in the South Edition

As promised, I am much cheerier today than yesterday. Nothing like baring your soul to the internet to make you feel much more ready to suck it up and move on.

In any case, I've been annoyed a lot on the road. I live in a place where the natives (those of us born and raised in this neck of the woods) are outnumbered due to a large manufacturing plant and incredible city-wide growth. Now, as almost anyone knows, everywhere you go, there are slightly different rules of the road. I genuinely feel that these people just don't know how to drive in the South. So, I'm sharing.

You're Welcome.

5 Rules for Driving in the South:

1. Emergency Vehicles - Here in the South, every time an emergency vehicle comes into view, we imagine that said vehicle is heading for a car accident where a drunk driver has hit our mother who is now pinned in a burning car. Really, unless you are on the phone with your mama, you don't know that this isn't the case. But since we love our mamas, we GET OFF THE ROAD. Even if we are in a hurry. Even if it's the seventh emergency vehicle to pass us by. Even if we really want to hurry up to get to mama's house and make sure she's okay. We GET OFF THE ROAD. There are, of course, nuances to this rule. For instance, if you are on a three or four lane road in town and you are traveling in the far right lane and there is no other traffic, except said emergency vehicle, it is acceptable to slow down and hug the line. However, if there is anyone traveling in the lane next to you, you will have to GET OFF THE ROAD, so they can get in your lane. Likewise, if there is a barrier in between you and the vehicle, i.e. a median, then no action is necessary. If you are mere feet away from your turn, you may turn, as that is also GETTING OFF THE ROAD, but you then must pay particular attention that the emergency vehicle does not also turn.

2. Funerals - It has recently come to my attention that not everyone does this, so visitors to our fair region are often surprised by this phenomena. Because of that, I will try to be kind. Here in the South, we are big on history (sure, sometimes it's revisionist history, but whatever). We are also big on family. Therefore, when someone dies, we all act sad, even if we hated their blessed heart and are secretly glad they are gone. Even if we don't know them from Adam. We act sad and respectful of the family. In deference to a traveling funeral procession, therefore, we stop. In fact, in Kentucky, it's not just good manners, but the law. There are varying theories on headlights. Some say you should turn them on in solidarity. Some say that the lights should be reserved for those in mourning. I don't care about the lights. I care that you stop. Stop. It's okay, we know that you are in a hurry. You're always in a hurry. We know that you need to go wherever it is that you are going. But, you should stop anyway. You can always say you got caught in traffic, which is true. If you are meeting someone from the South, you can say you passed a funeral procession and all will be well with the world. In some cases, a few cars in the procession will designate themselves to make you stop by traveling slightly over the yellow line. If you have to be forcibly stopped in this way, we will all look at you like you brought your pet pig to a church wedding. The only people exempt from stopping for a funeral procession are emergency vehicles.

3. Blocking Intersections - I am pretty sure this is a law everywhere, but here in the South, we like to recognize that not everyone is going where we are going, so we try not to block intersections. Likewise, if the car in front of you stops a few yards back from the car in front of them, to leave room for people to get in and out of the Piggly Wiggly, then you should not honk your horn at them. In fact, don't ever honk your horn unless you a. See someone you know, or b. Are in dire peril. Honking because you are pissy at someone is just rude and we hate to be rude.

4. Tractors/Hand Signals - Hand signals are legal. If I extend my arm out my car window straight, it means that I am going to turn left. If I extend my arm out my car window, bent at the elbow facing up, that means I am turning right and if I extend my arm out my car window, bent at the elbow pointing down, I'm stopping. These are an acceptable and (I'm stressing this) legal alternative to turn signals and brake lights. I swear. This is particularly important when you are traveling behind tractors and/or farm vehicles. Sometimes their lights don't work, or you can't see them for their gigantic trailer of hay. Whatever, watch their hands. Also, don't tailgate them, if they could go faster they would. What most farmers do is wait for a nice little line to gather behind them, then pull off and let everyone pass. You can see how this is much more convenient than letting every person pass individually, can't you? Be nice. There are many nice things in life you wouldn't have if farmers didn't occasionally drive down the road.

5.The Wave - No one is perfect. This is a fact of life everywhere. Sometimes we all make mistakes. Sometimes, you will be cut off, edged out of your space or have to slam on your brakes for someone. Sometimes people break the rules because they aren't paying attention, because their wife is in labor or because they are having a really bad day. Here in the South, when someone messes up, knows it and takes responsibility, they signal that with "the wave." The wave is one hand extended in the general area of the rearview mirror. Sometimes it's just a quick hand in the air, sometimes it's got a little motion to it. In any case, the wave should be interpreted to mean, "Sorry about that!" Since so many people in the past few months have met my waves with an extended middle finger, whose meaning is pretty well known around here, I can only assume that you don't know I'm saying I'm sorry. I can't imagine that if we were face to face and I said, "Sorry I kinda cut you off there. I didn't see you until it was too late. Won't happen again," that your response would not be "F You!" Perhaps I am wrong. If that is the case, you should seek counseling for your anger issues. You see, we don't really do road rage here. It's a small town in a Southern state. We are friendly and hospitable and we share the road.

So, there's my five point tutorial. What are your pet peeves about driving? Or, alternately, tell me what makes driving in your neck of woods distinct. Also, have a great weekend, all. We need it.


Orlandel said...

I was in a funeral procession recently in rural Ky. At one point we came upon a curve in the road where a van, upon meeting the funeral, had stopped. Suddenly, around the curve came a caravan of little, convertibles - you know, little 'race' cars - driving incredibly fast for the type of road we were on. They were sporting license plates from New York and New Jersey (the 2 I saw). As they rounded the curve imagine their surprise at finding a van stopped in the middle of the road. Unable to stop, there was much screaming of tires, and one of the little cars slid into the ditch and flipped. The funeral procession stopped, men jumped out of their vehicles before they even stopped, ran to the upside down car (yes, people were hanging upside down, held in by their seat belts). After a 2-second evaluation, the men flipped the car up the embankment (so as not to crush the arm of the passenger which was pinned under the car), and assured the people that 911 had been notified. Then they jumped back into their cars and caught up with the rest of the funeral, like it was something that we do everyday here in the backwoods. I only wish I could have heard the conversations of the people in the little cars.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Jessi, the world would be a much better place if someone were to print your "Southern Driving Tips" and make it part of the requirements for getting your license transferred in the south. Not only must the yanks read it, they must take (and pass) a quiz over it!

Suze said...

Daniel knows all about the hand signals, as his father is very careful to use them At All Times on the bicycle (always a good idea to indicate where you're going if on a bike). Now he chides me when I DON'T use those hand signals on the bike.

#6 could be the one-finger wave. Are there one-finger waves in the south? Like where you raise one finger on the steering wheel as a greeting to a passer-by? Or is that just in Kansas? (My grandpa did it all the time.)

Jessi said...

Mom - I would have loved to see that.

Jenn - I work with a lady from New York and she's lived here almost three years. The other day she asked me why people drive in the middle of the road in a funeral procession. I could hardly keep from laughing.

Suze - I forgot about bicycles, yes, super important for them too. And yes, the one finger wave or two finger wave are both acceptable.

Steve said...

That's interesting. Here's my UK take on your five.
1. It's the same here. People who don't pull over for emergency vehicles, especially ambulances, are seen as morons or morally bankrupt.
2. This one was interesting because we don't pull over for funeral processions. We do expect people to drive patiently behind them.
3. Both blocking and honking go on here. Not everyone though.
4. I don't think I've ever seen a hand signal in any urban area. But I grew up in a rural village so I know to watch for tractor drivers using them and how to be patient with them.
5. Some people really need to chill out, especially before they get behind the wheel of a car. Also true here.

Jessi said...

Steve - I was hoping you'd chime in! Part of the problem with emergency vehicles is that so many people don't pull over and there never seems to be any consequence. All those cameras in police cars, you'd think they could ticket those who don't pull over.

I do think that pulling over for funerals is limited to the South, I'm pretty sure that's not the standard everywhere in the states. It is one of my great pet peeves, though.