Monday, December 20, 2010

Thoughts on North Point Traffic

The masses of drivers funneling into North Point every Sunday provide an interesting case study. There are proverbially two types of people in the world: those with “Type A” personalities, those driven, energetic, hard-charging, take-life-by-the-horns take-no-prisoners types, and the more introspective, laid-back Type B’s. While most “normal” churches are constituted with a more equal distribution of A’s and B’s, I contend that by virtue of its design, North Point attracts a vast majority of Type A personalities.

When Sunday-morning traffic starts backing up on Old Milton Parkway, these Type A’s reveal their true nature. Heading east toward the eventual right turn onto North Point Parkway, these church-goers consider it their God-given right to sail past the line of slow-moving or stopped, dutiful Type B cars in the far right turn lane. Only when they top the hill and near the intersection do they turn on their blinkers and barge their way over. Adding insult to injury, instead of then merging left into the line of cars preparing to make the left turn into the church lot, these Type A’s roar past in the right lane, looking to merge left after passing another twenty “less important” cars. Andy has even “joked” about these drivers from the pulpit.

But these me-first drivers aren’t finished. Many join the line of cars directing into the large northern lot, where the bridge has been built. Even though these drivers have waiting until traffic is at the heaviest, they make the line of cars behind them wait while they back their huge SUV into a choice parking space on the left. This way, after the service they can cut in front of dozens more cars when they leave. If several cars are behind me, I’m going to get into the space and out of the way as quickly as possible. Rather than holding up the line by baking in, I usually find a choice spot where it doesn’t matter.

I know I’m not the best driver in the world. I probably peaked years ago. I certainly I drive slower than I used to. My driving style is mostly defensive and considerate, with an efficient, light-on-the-gas pedal mentality to keep MPG high. I’m almost always driving right at the speed limit, or perhaps a little over. Still, other drivers will tail me, both on surface streets and highways. On multi-lane roads I do my best to remain observant of approaching vehicles, using the fast lanes only to pass or stay away from 18-wheelers.

Sometimes I WILL pass a line of cars instead of joining the line at the end. But I don’t expect cars at the front of the line to let me in. I will only merge if a slow driver leaves a large open spot. But if there’s no opening, I’ll take an alternate route, even if it’s longer. I gambled and lost.

When I’m in the slow-moving line, I try to stay close to the car in front of me. This way only the true jerks will barge in. It is true that some drivers did make a mistake or didn’t know where to turn. Usually these drivers will signal as soon as they realize their mistake. Last night I was stopped at a light, in the right lane second in line, preparing to enter the interstate. The sign overhead clearly read “85 south – right lane only”. While waiting, I surveyed the cars to my left. None had blinkers on. But as soon as the light changed a red sedan roared ahead, finally turning its blinker on. Should I feel bad for not letting it in? I’m trying to be considerate of those waiting behind me, who were waiting LONGER than the stud trying to jam his way in at the front.

It’s funny when speed-demons try to pass a group of cars by going around them on the right. They approach too fast, leaving no time for the slower drivers to merge out of the way to the right. Then when the speeding Type A driver tries to go around on the right, other slow cars are often there blocking the way.

Another pet peeve of mine is right turns. Some drivers will stop and wait for the light before turning. They’ll divert attention from the road, and won’t turn even if no one’s coming. It would be nice if more drivers would be so considerate that they move to the left if they’re going straight, allowing cars turning right room to proceed. Then when a right turn is made, it’s proper driving procedure to turn into the right lane. Any defensive driver knows to look out for drivers making a right and continuing way over to the left.

Four way stops also bring out the worst in drivers. Type A’s in luxury SUVs think they’re allowed to proceed through first, without regard for less-important neighbors waiting their turn. Conversely, distracted Type B drivers wait forever, having long forgotten any lessons learned in Drivers Ed. Or older drivers, perhaps. I try to keep in mind that older people are at a disadvantage competing with the ever-changing and increasingly denser byways of today.

During last week’s ice storm Atlanta suffered over a thousand accidents. The hilly rush-hour roads were jammed. I slid twice, once in the middle of crowded Holcomb Bridge Road. Even when I drove the speed limit, cars were on my tail. The next morning a driver roared past me on the right, then immediately changed lanes to pass another “slowpoke”.

George Carlin said, “Anyone driving slower than me is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than me is a maniac.”

It’s also been my observation that BMW drivers are the worst. Inconsiderate, too fast, and a me-first mentality. To them, it doesn’t matter if I’m in a lane…they’re coming over because they want to, because they’re driving a nicer car, because they’re more important. Mercedes drivers tend to be more oblivious, erring out of inattention. Some driving the largest SUVs and extended-bed quad-cab diesel pickups can hardly maneuver them. Do they really need such massive vehicles?

Some judge drivers based on the political leanings of the bumper sticker on display. It often appears cars brandishing the Christian “fish” symbol are deliberately taken advantage of. Not wanting to be a bad witness, I try to stay away from both. Don’t want to get a belligerent soul reason to inflict harm on my car.

Is my behavior un-Christian? Surely my attitude is. WWJD? Surely not let those Type A’s run all over the weaker Type B’s. The meek may inherit the earth, but they better watch out on 285.

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