The Four Way Stop

Approaching another cross road in life, I know it’s a cliché. We all reach them, we all have to deal with them and sometimes we don’t know when to go. You can really tell a lot about a person at a four way stop, especially if four vehicles arrive at the same time.

Some people wave everyone on proving one of two things. Either this person doesn’t really have to be anywhere. Or, they’re just so damn polite they yield to everyone.

Sometimes a person gets confused or they don’t pay attention when approaching a four-way stop. Either way they still have to know what to do. If they don’t, they will let everyone go just to save embarrassment.  

Then of course there’s the person that believes they should go first, no matter what. “Screw them all, I’m going, they’ll still be sitting there for another 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do!”

We also have the jigger bug, they approach everything cautiously. Pumping the brakes way too soon and inching their way up then stopping, inching a little more and stopping. Distraught and confused they just wave everyone one through showing their complete lack of confidence in the situation.

Another personality is the drifter. This person likes to approach any situation slowly. They press on their brakes way too soon coasting into the four way stop. In most cases they’re actually the first to arrive, but it takes so long for them to get to the line it causes confusion for everyone else.

Don’t forget the yield to the right guy. This person truly believes you are supposed to yield to the car on the right. But what if there are no cars at the four way stop. Do you wait for another vehicle to arrive? How can they move forward without first having the opportunity to yield? I guess they just wait until someone else arrives.

The two characters left are the live and die by the rotation of the earth and the movement of the sun people. First we have a person that thinks each car should take a turn in clockwise rotation order. Of course by the time everyone figures that out, more cars have arrived at the intersection. How should they handle the four way stop? Do they continue using the clockwise rule or do they go back to the first to arrive, the first to go rule.

The other earth clock disciples are completely opposite of their brethren. They believe the correct order is counter clockwise. This is really confusing when there are both types at a four way stop.

Most of us were taught how to drive many years ago. Trying to remember all the rules and proper procedures is difficult. That’s why we have signs telling us how fast we can go and warning us if there’s a curve in the road. But sometimes when we’re unsure we take the liberty to make up the rules as we go.

We do our best, using our intellect and experiences to handle all driving situations. But sometimes we just look like complete asses. Next time you approach a four way stop check out the other drivers and watch what they do.

Oh, by the way the rule is; first to arrive – first to go. That’s it.

Does Your Horn Blow Too

This is a time of year when patients and understanding goes along way on the roads and highways in the Sunshine State. If you want to get a quick quart of milk or a pack of smokes from 7-Eleven chances are that 5 minutes trek will now take a little longer. The streets in Florida in normal conditions are more than sufficient for that quick commute to just about anywhere.
But these are not normal times; this time can only be defined with one word ‘SEASON’.
This time of year between (Super Bowl Sunday and Easter Sunday) is when restaurant owners and shop keepers see their bottom lines grow. Season is the equivalent to Black Friday and Cyber Monday for retailers.
But there are sacrifices to this phenomenon for residents living in the coastal communities of Florida. First and foremost it’s the traffic. There is no more jumping in a car and running up to 7-Eleven and being back before the commercials end. Oh no, in fact there are no more quick trips anywhere. You see our roads, streets and byways were designed and built when 80% of the habitable landscape was swamps and orange groves. There are some streets that still don’t have sewers. Making those homeowners fend for themselves when it comes time to that all important flush of their toilet. Most of us don’t know or care where last nights Paella goes. But there are some that know exactly where it flows, right to the drainage field in the backyard.
OK enough poop talk, back to the roads.
So as a community we must concede to our population tripling in size for 12 weeks and we adjust to the fact that the short run to store may take a few more minutes than normal. It’s also alright that some of the people visiting our state are senior citizens and drive a little slower or in some cases a little faster then we do.
I can’t speak for every Floridian, but some of us don’t like the ever popular Snowbird and those people take every opportunity to make their stay with us a living hell.
You see, I was sort of a Snowbird myself. When my family took the long ride down 95 to the Sunshine State we too were mesmerized by the sight of palm trees and coconuts. Or, the simple fact that it was possible for it to rain on one side of road and not the other. Most of us are very aware that the smell of suntan oil can make some people delirious, causing tourist to watch cranes fly toward the sea, instead of watching the road.
This brings me to the reason for writing this blog, car horns.
Just this week I was sitting at a traffic light making a left hand turn. The traffic was very heavy and I waiting until the light changed from green to amber before I made my move. Now granted, I was in the middle of the intersection and had no where to go, so when the on coming traffic slowed down I made the turn. This didn’t seem to bother anyone and I’m sure most of us have executed this maneuver one time or another. “Oh, I guess I’m committed, I have to go.”
I didn’t know there were two other cars behind me that rode my wake through the red light. Ok, we’ve all done that before as well.
However, before that second car crossed the walkway the vehicle going in the opposite direction deemed it necessary to lay down their horn. I guess to let those folks know a thing or two about proper road etiquette. Well those folks were about 90 years old and their car almost crashed into another because they were so freaked out. I guess if they crashed that guy blowing his horn would feel justification RIGHT (NOT).
This made me think about my own horn usage and I can honestly say except for the friendly double toot letting someone know the light has been green for at least 30 seconds I have never use my horn. That’s right 30 years of driving and I’ve never blasted someone for something I probably did the day before. When I asked a few people if they used their horns the answers was always the same, NO.
So as I was driving down the road the other day I thought about my horn and other peoples horns as I listened for one to see what kind of person utilizes their horn regularly. “Whoa, there goes one, oh that was just two friends saying hello.”
“There’s another one, oh that person was just sitting at the light by himself – weird.” Then it happened, I was in a congested flow of traffic. In front of me; an elderly couple in a big Buick, to the right, a young kid driving a small pickup and behind me a Mom and her kids in an SUV. Then a little car maybe an eclipse darted over to my lane then back again. Every move he made caused him to loose ground not gain it.
As we all traveled through a major intersection this little bastard changed lanes (which is illegal) and cut off large pickup truck. Well this pickup truck had one of those railroad horns (also illegal) installed and blasted one out. I almost soiled my pants and unfortunately the person in front of him was not the eclipse but the elderly couple. When I reached the next traffic light I was next to the elderly couple, the women was upset and the guy looked like he was having a heart attack. I rolled down my window and asked them if they were OK. I also explained to them that the blast was not meant for them but the little sports car that was now long gone. I think they felt a little better but I thought the guy in the truck should say something to them. So at the next light I made sure I was even with the pickup. I motioned for him to roll down his window. After explaining to him the situation he flipped me the bird. Before he left, I shouted “hey those horns are illegal in this State and I’ve got your plate number. So I hope I see you apologizing to those folks at the next light.” Well, his wife or girlfriend extended his previous reply and added a green loogie on my windshield. But something must have sunk-in because at the next light I could see he was talking with the old couple, small victories.
My research has taught me that car horns were installed for the safety of pedestrians and animals. In the early 1800’s horns were installed in self propelled vehicles so that pedestrians and horses could be alerted because the vehicles were difficult to stop. Well I think we’ve past the need to alert pedestrians and cattle because of our cars inability to stop. Why do we have car horns anyway? Is it to say hello to a passing friend, or scare the shit out of the person in front of you. If you use your horn, isn’t it too late anyway. Our reaction time is not that good to alert someone to avoid an accident or correct a traffic infraction.
The car horn in most cases is used improperly and probably causes more accidents then prevents them. What gives any of us the right to judge some ones driving skills when we damn well know we do the same things? Of course, if we fly through a red light or pass someone in an intersection and another driver horns their opinion our way, we call them assholes. Someone today blasted me at a four way stop thinking that the proper procedure was to yield to the car on the right. (WRONG) Four way stops, don’t get me started.
Anyway think about it. Do we need car horns? Listen the next time you’re driving not many people use them and the ones that do probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place. And for God sakes if you plan on coming down to the Sunshine State this winter look at the palm trees when you’re walking down our streets.

Waiting To Exhale -- 2009

Another post employment morning, starting the day checking his email as he quickly deletes the spam and junk messages that seem to find their way through miles of fiber optic lines. It’s not a surprising to find nothing encouraging in the e-box. Of course there are suggestions on how to write the perfect resume and companies almost guaranteeing that they will hook him up with an interview for $29.95.
Nothing has changed much the last few months, except his role in the home. He is now the designate driver for the kids. Dropping them off and picking them up at school. He also spends a lot of time at the grocery stores finding deals on cheese and items listed as two for ones.
It’s hard being home all day, especially this long. It’s been six months since the layoff and time is running out, on everything. He made some tough choices about what little money was left and keeping his family together. Trying to maintain a worry free environment has been difficult.
At first it didn’t seem to bother the kids, Dad being home. But as weeks turned into months and the months will soon be a year even the youngest knows something is very wrong with this picture.
Trying to maintain a normal life for his family has been hard. He didn’t want his wife or children worrying about food or clothes or whether they would have a bed to sleep in. He knew keeping calm and not talking to them about it would work, in the short term. But now, he’s getting to the point were a true miracle would come in handy.
Putting off the creditors is easy, but putting off the bank holding the mortgage is a different story. He is currently 5 months behind; he is waiting for that knock on the door from the courts letting him know his presence is requested.
So with every new day comes a different set of problems. His family didn’t know that there are times when he doesn’t eat, because there simply was not enough food to go around. They didn’t know that he has used every dime including a large water jar of coins he’s been savings since high school for a trip to France. This was going to be a fiftieth birthday present to him. They don’t know that keeping the pool clean and the grass and bushes trimmed was only a mirage, smoke and mirrors so the neighbors don’t realize there’s a problem.
Remembering 2009, who wants too? The scares of 2009 will take years to heal. The worst part is, he knew it was going to happen. Like a nightmare, he was standing on a switch track at a rail station when suddenly the clamp closed on his foot. Locomotive 2009 was bearing down on him. At first it was just a small light in the distance slowly growing larger as the crept up to the present. Should he cut his foot off and save himself or wait? Wait to see if some miracle will happen. The train may screech to a halt, or change tracks. That’s how everyday of his life feels.
It’s been a long time since he had a good night sleep, even longer feeling good about the mornings. Hopefully the New Year will bring change and a little luck. Maybe something will take a little pressure off of him so he can enjoy the simple things in life again.
2011 can be a new start for everyone, one thing is fore sure he is not alone. Many people have been holding their breaths much longer than he has. Maybe, just maybe—2011w ill be the start of something new, something wonderful for us all