Also fulfilling is to have your family press you for the exotic details of the trip, and all you can remember is the airport, the rental car place, and the inside of the hotel--in other words, every city looks the same. The only difference is the way the people drive.
I've done a little traveling myself this past year, and, in an effort to have something to tell my children, I made special note of the way people in some cities handle their highways. Here is a quick coast-to-coast review:
The streets of Boston were laid out in pre-Revolutionary war times by drunken horsemen--it's possible to hit twenty intersections in a hundred yards, all of them spilling cars into your path at oblique angles. Don't look for traffic signs; Bostonians think traffic signs are for weenies. Worse of all are the traffic circles, which suck in unwitting automobiles like a black hole pulling in interstellar dust. Oncoming vehicles do their best to keep you pinned inside the innermost crease. Your only hope of escape from a traffic circle is to whiz round and round at ever increasing speed until you are flung away by sheer centrifugal force.
Come to an intersection in Kansas City and stop at a red light and everyone else stops too, waving in a most polite fashion for you to proceed. This can be very confusing, since they have a green light and you have the red--do the fools want you to break the law? Apparently so, for they will wait, beaming and nodding encouragingly, while other citizens pull up and smile at you as well. Three or four of these Stepford stops and you begin to long for the streets of Boston.
Slow down due to friction or engine exhaustion while traveling in Detroit and someone will instantly slot himself into place in front of you. It really seems like you could put the car in neutral and coast--the line of cars behind you would keep you pressing ahead at the same berserk pace.
In some cities, the sight of a disabled or wrecked car by the side of the road will cause a slowdown in the flow of traffic, as everyone cranes their necks to see what happened. In Detroit, the same sight causes everyone to speed up, under the assumption that one less car means there is a gap up there somewhere to be filled.
Yet, no matter how fast they go, they are still stuck in Detroit.
I'm sure the drivers in other cities have a few quirks as well; I just didn't go anyplace else. If you want to share some of your favorite anecdotes, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the replies that Cameron got at: The Cameron Column #92.
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Submitted By: W. Bruce Cameron
Feb 17, 1999 12:48