How slow can you go?

| July 31, 2002
Too little too late
Too little too late
- Alex Maness
I just got home from doing errands, and I'm ready to pull the rest of my rapidly thinning hair out. The traffic situation in Chapel Hill isn't nearly as bad as "up nawth," or in places like Charlotte or Atlanta. And, doing errands in Chapel Hill still beats doing errands anywhere else all to hell. But, while I've been here for 13 years now and consider myself truly full of Southern fried and pride, the time has come to address Southern drivers. What are they thinking!!??

I'm not just referring to the snow and ice (even hard rain) panic in the streets for which Southerners are infamous. The first hint of snow or ice induces an insatiable need for vats of extra bread and milk that is clearly out of their control. Apparently they have no choice but to react by leaping into their cars and heading for the closest bridge, where they slam on their brakes and sail sideways right into the sign that says "Bridge Ices Before Road." Born and raised in Ohio, I'm a veteran snow driver, and when it snows around here I love to get some nachos and a Diet Coke, park up in the Carrboro Plaza parking lot, and watch Southern drivers maneuver. With all due respect, it's the best laugh I get all winter, except when I see my paycheck.

But what has me steaming today, and most days, is the typical absolute cluelessness with which y'all head "down the road a piece." I know everything moves slower in the South, and that's fine. I know we're all better off if we stop and smell the roses. It's just that I prefer not to do that while driving! Let me just say, if you don't know where you're going or don't give a damn what month you get there, could you please get out of the left lane? I mean, don't we have the same driving manual here as they do up north? Doesn't it say somewhere to drive in the right lane, and pass in the left lane? Doesn't it say to signal when you're turning, but not to drive around the rest of the day with your signal on? Doesn't it tell you not to speed up and move toward the center when someone is passing you, or that it's dangerous--and illegal--to go 37 mph on the interstate? Just asking!

Of course, Yankees aren't perfect drivers, either. They can be as selfish, aggressive and obtuse behind the wheel as they are in other areas of life, which is part of the reason I renounced my Yankeehood years ago. But my driving has become dangerously reactive down here. I'm occasionally so grateful to finally be out from behind a Southern driver that I become Vicki Petty at totally inappropriate moments, on totally inappropriate roads, and I've got the tickets to prove it. Obviously, I just need to give up and join y'all. In fact, I hear there are severe thunderstorm warnings this afternoon, and I actually feel a sudden, urgent need for huge quantities of bread and milk. If I get out of here now, I can make it to the nearest bridge in five minutes!

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