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?