I work close to a fairly rare thing in the Phoenix metro area. A fairly rare thing in the United States, actually. It’s a roundabout. For those of you unfamiliar with a roundabout, it’s a circular road. They like to use them in Europe instead of stop lights. The idea is that you drive up to the roundabout, make sure that you’re not cutting anyone off, and you drive into it. Then you drive in a circle until you find the road that you’d like to exit onto. Pretty simple, no? They even put Yield signs at each entrance so you know that the laws of civilized society haven’t been suspended and you won’t be allowed to ram other people’s cars. Drive up, pause, drive in, drive off. How hard is that?
Apparently really fucking hard because every single day I see someone do something more moronic than I would have thought possible. There’s one type of person who apparently believes that when confronted with a new traffic situation, flooring it is the best policy. Yeah, there are Yield signs, and road markings, and there’s another road in front of you, and other cars traveling on it, but I’m sure that if you fucking floor it everything will work out for the best. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
I’ve also seen the driver who believes that new traffic situations call for a total retreat. They will pull up to the roundabout, look it at warily for a few seconds, and then throw their car into reverse and back into a parking lot that they’d just passed. I have actually seen this. “I don’t know what the fuck that thing is, and I don’t want to know. I’m going back home, hopping into bed, and calling Dr. Lowenstein to make an emergency appointment.”
There’s also the cautious scientist type: They will drive up, stop short of the roundabout, and just watch it for a while to figure out how it works. It’s like someone allowed Dianne Fossey to drive a car for the first time. “Journal entry, day 5: The mysterious metal boxes continue to stream by in a counterclockwise fashion. Every once in a while, one of them will drop out, only to be replaced by another. What wonderful and majestic beasts these are!”
The cautious scientist type is the least moronic of the bunch. At least they’re making an attempt to figure it out, but let me tell you something, they are frustrating as hell when you are stuck behind them. “IT’S A FUCKING ROUNDABOUT, YOU MORON!” you’ll yell, but they’re too busy taking notes and forming a hypothesis to notice.
Another infuriating aspect of roundabouts is that the government goes through a lot of trouble and spends a lot of money to tell you exactly what to do. They have lane markers, yellow lines, white lines, Yield signs, and in some cases directional signs that tell you which exits lead to which roads. Here’s how that should work.
How The Thought Process Should Go: Hmmm, I’ve never seen one of these before. Ok, well, I’ll stay in my lane and yield to the traffic until I can get on this road… There, now I’ll stay in my lane and exit when the appropriate sign tells me to. There! That wasn’t so bad!
How The Thought Process Actually Goes: Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah! Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah! Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah! Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah, yeah! Do the wiggle man, I do the wiggle man, yeah. I’m sexy and I know it!
Please note that this is a simple, one lane roundabout I’m talking about. I understand that your typical Italian roundabout has forty-seven lanes in it, speed limits of 32,000 hectares (or however the fuck they measure speed over there), and is exclusively used by large tanks and little old ladies on scooters. Those things would be intimidating to a first time driver. But the roundabout I’m near is less complicated than some driveways I’ve seen. It’s a single fucking lane of circle, people!
There are times that I’d like to be a cop, and watching people fuck up in roundabouts is all of them. I’d like to pull them over just to ask what the fuck they were thinking and then give them the easy explanation: “Think of it as a self-serve red light. You drive up, when it’s safe to go, you go, and then you can turn onto whatever street you want to without worrying that some red-light-running asshole is about to kill you.”
I remember driving in Montreal one time, and I was at a stop light needing to turn left. Just then the light turned green, but actually the green light was flashing. Puzzled, I hesitated. Then a car behind me blew his horn.
“Hmmm, I’ve got a weird flashing green light, the car behind me (also with a left turn signal going) is beeping his horn at me, and the oncoming traffic is stopped at their light. Therefore, a flashing green light means that I may turn left, arrive at my destination, and drink fourteen beers.”
The total elapsed time it took me to figure that out? Less than two seconds. Because, you know, I USED MY FUCKING HEAD!
Seriously, where the fuck are the teleporters?
Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Yeah!
Pretty much sums it up.
Where I grew up in Jersey, there were tons of these. We typically just called them circles, because we’re all in-bred Pineys or cast members from Jersey Shore. But at least we can utilize a roundabout.
Hmmm, I admit I was not aware that they had these in New Jersey.
Ok, so people in Europe and people who work in “Waste Management” know how to use roundabouts. Everyone else: Clueless.
I’m not certain how many roundabouts exist in north Jersey, but I used them regularly in south Jersey. They’re not fucking complicated, if you have more than a few neurons left that are synapsing and a general idea of how to behave in a society.
…which explains why you won’t find them in Indiana.
I’d like to think teleporters would solve it too, but if we’re putting people in them, somehow it will be a disaster. Because wiggle wiggle does seem to be the norm.
My mom would manage to bea herself to five different places at once, and all five of her would call AT&T for support.
We have a metric shit tonne of roundabouts in Australia. They keep traffic flowing, and you know that at 3am some asshole is going to make the traffic lights change on you. With roundabouts it doesn’t matter what he does.
The best roundabout in the world to watch is around the Arc D’ Triumph in Paris: 3-4 unmarked lanes, 6 roads coming in, right of way goes to people entering the roundabout, all insurance is void on the roundabout. Crazy awesome.
Yeah, the one around the Arc is NUTS! So let me get this straight, you’re driving in a circle, and you have to wait for the people getting in? How the hell does that not cause everyone to crash?
I lived in a small town with lots of roundabouts and no traffic lights. In tourist season, it was fun to watch the city people try to work out when to enter the roundabout. Rule is, give way to the right and to any vehicle in the roundabout. Not difficult, right? Maybe harder than you and I and anyone with a FRIGGING BRAIN
ooops…would think. Best part was when 3 or 4 vehicles would hit the roundabout at the same time, and no one knew who went first, so all would just sit there like dummies. Me, I would take the right of way and go. I always picture stalled cars with skeletons at the wheel because nobody wanted to make a move.
Ha, in the Midwest, we’d get that at 4-way stop signs. Everyone looks to the left, no one moves.
We have roundabouts in old SanAntonio. I literally can’t imagine being that confused. They were all over the place in south Africa (it being a British system) and even driving on the wrong side of the road it wasn’t a puzzle. Making a right hand turn, on the other hand…..
I just watched a guy pull up to one today, and he put the left turn signal on. From the car behind, I could almost see the mental wheels in motion:
“Hmmm, I want to go left, but it doesn’t look like I can. But, there’s no One Way sign… Odd. And this road is angled as if it wants me to go to the right. And everyone is traveling in a counter-clockwise direction.”
(one minute passes)
“Hey! I’ve got a great idea! I’ll just go right, travel around the circle, and then turn on to the road I want when I get to it! I AM FUCKING BRILLIANT!”