Monday, April 03, 2006

It's a Crap Shoot, Baby

I am having to outweigh risk vs. pleasure/necessity. Everyone in every big city loves to tell you that they own the worst drivers in the country (I say country firmly because I know of the horror stories of third-world international driving), but please understand that they mean, "well, at least outside of South Florida".

You get in with your children, you buckle everyone up, and you take a deep breath before inserting the key. You're sure you will pass at least two or three accidents, one with jaws-of-life doing its magic, but "please please please" you say, "let today be another day where I merely pass an accident", with no involvement other than well-wishes, and stiff-necked forward looking so as not to:
  • be one of "those" people who gawk
  • be in a resulting accident.

You're shaking your head right think you know all about it, and that you have drivers identical to ours. I've lived in several major cities, and I don't think it is merely age that makes me the white-knuckled wheel-gripper I have now become.

It is not uncommon to be taking a left turn at a non-arrowed green light (meaning both ways have a green light), and when you do not turn fast enough (i.e. manouvering a Frogger-like turn, weaving between oncoming vehicles), the car behind you will lay on its horn. It will then swerve over into the right lane (no doubt cutting someone off who will now give them a five-second horn salute), and then race around you, making a left. The driver will shoot the finger at you, or glare, and then piss off the oncoming traffic that has to slam brakes/swerve to avoid hitting them. Those drivers (our friend from behind us now long gone) then glare and shoot the finger at you because clearly you should have taken a death-defying left and then that asshole wouldn't have had to get so angry. It's 7:30 a.m.: you have heard the wail of at least three horns, you have relieved yourself of the morning's coffee, and congratulations--you have now taken the first left out of your subdivision.

The road behind my house has a 50 mph speed limit. This makes complete sense for several reasons, not the least of which it is a cross street from several neighborhoods to a large Orthodox synagogue. The Sabbath takes on a whole new meaning for these observant, pedestrian Jews. How lucky you feel, after a day of rest and reflection , and you tuck your offspring into bed Saturday night. "We made it!" you must feel like crowing, feeling particularly chosen that day. Additionally, the street is laden with businesses, and we all know nothing is more satisfying than pulling out of the grocery store, bags flying, with less than three seconds to get up to the speed of oncoming traffic. Oh wait, what are you saying? They're not going 50....

...they're going 60!!!!! Because as we all know, those pesty little limit signs are only a suggested speed, an "oh-only-if-you're-not-running-late" mph guideline.

Do you need more proof? It costs nearly $5,000/year to insure a sixteen-year old male in Miami. It costs me $1,400/year for myself, and I have a safe-driver discount. More? Okay, it was on the news lately that the crosses/memorials that people set up around town to remember their deceased (from accidents) loved ones have to start coming down, as they are so ubiquitous they have in themselves, started to cause more accidents.

So, risk vs. reward? I think about it all the time. Are those five-mile-away tennis lessons for Jake worth it? Is there any possibility Olivia will grow up to actually be a prima ballerina? Nah, let's just stay home, where it is safe.

Oh, but only after we've purchased 25 gallons of bottled water and put up the hurricane shutters.


Walter said...

You have us beat. I drive to Houston and am scared to death. In fact, I drive to Santa Fe and am scared. I think Albuquerque drivers THINK they are rough, but they are little pantywaists (whatever that means - I wanted to use the expression).

Good luck, stay calm, and don't give in.

Laura said...

And so much better than just emailing me, "Pantywaist, pantywaist, you are such a pantywaist."

tracy said...

The only thought that actually gets you out of the house to take the "risk" of getting the kids to their "activities" is how do I keep 2 kids entertained while keeping my own sanity. Ok kids, buckle up!