Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Have Three Lanes and Yet I Must Scream

Driving, I think, is heavily cultural. If you think about it, how people drive, and their attitude about it is related most directly to the geography and development of their area. That is to say, folks in the LA Basin who have to plan on driving for 2 hours to get 20 Miles and those in, say, Texas, who may drive for 2 hours to get to a gas station have drastically different mental maps of their world.

There is a lot to say on this topic, but for the subject at hand, I will say that I was expecting the traffic and driver attitude here in Nashville, metropolitan population estimated at 1.2 million people, would be a lot like that found in larger metro areas in California. Extended traffic hours, long waits, and everything that comes with it.

I was wrong, though. Sure there are similarities: I drive about 15 miles to work, which takes me across one named local highway and three more interstate freeways. Directions to get anywhere in town start to sound like a game of Battleship: "24E to 65N to 40W to 70." And after all that, you've gone 9 miles.

But even though we're in a big city, and most of the freeways around town are 3 or 4 lanes, and split and loop back all over the place, I've noticed a major difference between driving here and driving, well, anywhere in California.

Most 2 or 3 or 4 lane freeways in California are densely occupied most of the time. You don't have a lot of open lanes, or room to move around. Even so, they stay moving at a pretty good pace except for the heavy traffic areas. The speed limit may be 55, but you won't find us caught dead driving that speed except in inclement weather. Like if it was raining and snowing and hurricane force winds and the sun was setting and shining right in your eyes and there were trucks on the road and there had been an accident and the highway patrol was out in force. Even then we'd be doing 65 in a 55.

Here around Nashville, I'll jump on the freeway to get across town and find three glorious lanes, nary a one backed up except at the splits, with wide open holes as I bob and weave my way from freeway to freeway. Somehow, still, this freedom is a secret to the faces staring right into it every day. The Tennessee drivers have picked their lane and they will never leave it, they drive 55 in safe conditions, content to arrive when they may. But not me. No, I am downhill slalom champion in my Yuppie Outback. I am shackled to no lane, and these drivers, all of them outmaneuvered and outclassed see only a teal blur and me, pumping my fist out the sunroof as I scream past.

1 comment:

Mrs. and Mama Knifton said...

love it! only in CA do we think that changing lanes 10 times really gives us a better chance at going farther than just being in one lane. reminds me of "office space."