Not the Time nor Place for Kindness
Jan 20, 2011 12:01 am
Okay, so it seems that for many of those who know me, somehow I have a reputation for appearing laid back and calm most of the time. I often tell people that's definitely not always the case, and anyone who witnessed any of my "roadrage" while fearfully waiting my turn in the Route 2 intersection in front of Rite Aid in the 3:00 p.m. time frame on Dec. 28, certainly saw a different side of me. If they were able to read lips at a distance, they likely got an eyeful! What dominated in those moments was the side of me that becomes very vocal, certainly not always using the most appropriate language, extremely fearful and consequently angry. My guess is that many of you can relate, however, I will go on to describe this particular experience in hopes that it will become part of a squeaky wheel that's attempted to roll more than once in the past.
So, there we were, myself and a passenger, coming from the west and having just traveled over the overpass. The intersection was not surprisingly congested, and since our destination was a stop at Rite Aid and there was a vehicle coming from the east already waiting to turn left onto Parkway, we stopped to wait. My reasoning for stopping, besides not wanting to die at that moment, was my belief (although perhaps I'm incorrect) that the traffic traveling east and west on Route 2 has the right of way, and that in the case of an intersection where any of these vehicles intend to turn, the vehicle arriving at the intersection first, turns first. Since the other vehicle was already there, I stopped to wait for it to make it's intended turn onto Parkway.
Now, believe me, I'm all for being nice - kindness, in fact, is truly one of my favorite things in this world and too often seems missing in these fast paced times. However, I also am convinced that trying to be kind while attempting to maneuver through this particular intersection is not a good idea, and in fact being kind, rather than actually knowing the correct driving protocol in this situation, can potentially cause tremendous damage. So, there we were, sitting with our blinker on indicating our intention to turn left. Having been rear-ended twice in my life, I tend to be anxious in what's coming up behind me and although I did notice a tractor trailer in my rear view mirror, the congestion and circus in front of my eyes took precedence and I had to trust what was behind me would be paying attention and actually stop. Besides concluding that the vehicle who was in the westbound lane, waiting to turn onto Parkway did not realize it was supposed to go ahead and make it's turn (perhaps fearful of being struck by whatever may have whizzed by my right on their eastbound destinations?), I suddenly became flabbergasted by the action of a vehicle who had been waiting at the end of Parkway, fulfilling their intention of turning left onto Route 2, westbound. The vehicle, a pick-up truck, pulled out into Route 2, traveling west on our right hand side (the east bound thru lane of Route 2), maneuvered around our back side, evidently between us and that oncoming tractor trailer, and miraculously emerged into the west bound Route 2 lane! Courageous? Stupid? Dangerous? Unnecessary? Guess it's all a matter of perspective. I tend to go with stupid and dangerous and unnecessary unless this was a secret agent on a mission to save the world - then perhaps I'd consider "courageous". I tend to, however, think it was someone with an exaggerated sense of self indulgence and an underdeveloped sense of consideration and patience and caution. I can only be thankful no one was hurt.
So, after witnessing that fiasco, my eyes then stayed on the vehicle that was still at a stop in the westbound lane, evidently "kindly" waiting for a "turn" to make the turn onto Parkway. This is where my apprehensiveness in regard to "kindness" comes into play. Many, many times over the years (some of you may recall this is not the first time I have written about this situation) I have witnessed vehicles stopped at various points of this intersection, with the drivers trying to figure out whose "turn" it is to move. As I've said before, it's as though you can see them scanning their memory banks in attempt to recall the rules and regulations of their driver's ed manuals. Well, again, perhaps I'm wrong, but my recollection is that the Route 2 traffic flow has the right of way, and that the traffic entering from Parkway or Rite Aid should wait until it's safe to move, with whoever was in place at those points first, moving first. Of course, if you arrive at any of these positions at the same time, the kindness factor does sometimes come into play, yet too often prompting potential danger. For example, if you are sitting and waiting where we were (and I have also experienced this when sitting at the end of Parkway waiting to cross Route 2 to Rite Aid) it is not a good idea for the drivers of vehicles waiting to come off Route 2 onto either Parkway or into Rite Aid, to initiate what they think is kindness and courtesy at that moment in stopping and waving you through. That Tuesday afternoon was a typical example of what I'm talking about. There we were, waiting to turn left, and that vehicle coming from the East on Route 2, was still waiting to take their left onto Parkway. It's kind of interesting in those moments in that time seems to fluctuate between feeling like eternity and the "flash" that feels normal. All this waiting was also colored for me by my passenger's adamant "encouragement" that I should go ahead and turn into Rite Aid, because that driver of the vehicle waiting to turn onto Parkway was waving me on to do so. I, in not such nice words, let my passenger know that the other driver may be trying to be "kind" but that they do not realize that I am not about to make the turn and take the chance of being smacked by westbound traffic passing them on their right....traffic that was not clearly visible to me in that moment, and traffic that was likely oblivious to the driver of the stopped vehicle. My passenger, frustrated with my caution, did not initially understand my decision at the moment not to follow the other driver's suggestion. I dare say he understands now. With everyone at the intersection at that moment seeming at a loss as to what to do, seemingly frozen in time yet with more and more vehicles approaching the scene with each moment, my language became even more colorful and explicit and I finally, against my better judgment, slowly crept my way toward Rite Aid reaching a point where I could see the traffic that was indeed approaching on that westbound thru lane beside the initial stopped vehicle being driven by the "kind" driver. Luckily, the lead vehicle in the line of oncoming thru traffic anticipated a cluster problem and was going slow enough to stop while I then quickly made my entrance into the Rite Aid parking lot. I am glad to say we arrived safe, and although I was definitely agitated, we were "sound"...and I'm thankful to say my passenger now understands what I was trying to communicate in those frustrating moments. (also, what he learned in those moments was later supported by even more validating observation on our venture back out into the intersection moments later!)
Although our stop at Rite Aid was at the request of my passenger and there was no reason for me to go in, I quickly found myself overcome with the need to voice my experience to anyone who might care. Next thing I knew I was striding into Rite Aid with the intention of spouting off a request, or more explicitly "instructions" to whoever might be at the check out counter. With any luck it would be someone I am acquainted with and perhaps they'd realize I'm not just another total, over exaggerating, road raged lunatic. So I did...and there was...and my request/instructions now are extended to any of you who may take the time to read this. After acknowledging me with a pleasant "Hello", and "How are you?" the lovely clerk listened with what seemed to be total understanding and even agreement while I said: "If I am ever killed in this intersection out here, you all had better keep hounding the state until they install a proper traffic signal light!!!" I truly hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, I hope you will all do that for me and for all the others who have died or suffered because of this problem!
Bless those souls who have lost their lives in this area. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and to those who have been injured, suffered damages, or simply been frightened. Years ago, I spent a lot of time and energy on this situation, and in all my former research, it became my understanding that basically regulations do not permit an actual signal/directional light system unless the "numbers" fit a particular criteria. In other words, one might say if there are not enough deaths, or accidents in general, within a particular time frame, the intersection does not warrant a directional signal system. I was on such an adamant mission for awhile - I made several calls to various state departments, emailed who I thought might be the people "in charge", gathered copies and organized data of the many accidents that had occurred up until a certain time (when I basically gave up), attended local informational meetings, and even sat in the parking lot at Mallard Mart observing and calculating how many vehicles actually bothered to "stop" when coming off Parkway on a busy skiing morning. It was sadly amazing...and sometimes frightening to witness! I brainstormed with others and came up with what may have been adequate solutions with potential problems a directional signal would create. I believe I recall even inviting anyone from the state department who might have the power to override regulations and make the decision of installing a directional signal to spend a day riding with me through the intersection. My guess is that by the end of the day, they would greatly appreciate getting behind the wheel of their own vehicle, but hopefully with a widened perspective of possibilities. That offer still stands if you know anyone who's willing to take me up on it! I'm ashamed to say my steam ran out in focusing on this cause, yet I eventually did make one more call, sadly, to let them know that although her death did not occur right after her accident, dear Beverly Fecteau's death was indeed a result of a tragic accident in that intersection. Although I felt that Beverly's shortened life needed to be at least acknowledged in the statistics involved with this problematic intersection, I'm ashamed and sorry to say I did not follow up to learn if it was ever actually documented as such. (For those who may not realize this, I would also like to acknowledge that Beverly Fecteau was the mother of Bethel resident Cheri Thurston Andrews and in a recent conversation with Cheri, I also learned that ironically, Cheri's son, Matt, had also been involved in one of the first accidents in this dangerous area ).
In ending, I'm totally aware that there are times when the intersection is far less challenging than others. Obviously it's more congested during the ski season, etc., and even then at particular times of the day. However, most any time of the year there are particular problems that remain, even when the traffic flow is minimal. For example, although the curb was moved back at one time, there is still too often a lack of visibility toward your right if you are coming from Parkway with intention of going straight across to Rite Aid, or turning left onto Route 2. Often vehicles pull up on your right with their intention to turn right, but at the same time block any chance you have of seeing the oncoming traffic coming from the east on Route 2. This may be irritating at times, but patience helps. Also, the fact remains that there will always be many, many, many, many, many drivers who do not know the proper procedure for maneuvering this intersection and too often treat it like a "four way stop", which consequently creates a dangerous situation. With all the advancement in technology in recent years, I can't believe there isn't some kind of setting available in a directional signal system that could provide a solution, while also accommodating various times of the year, various times of the day, etc. I realize there are many who may feel this is all unnecessary and do not want the "hassle" of waiting for a green light, but really, is there anyone out there that's so important that they can't "wait" a minute once in awhile for their chance to go? And finally, I am also aware that there are still those in this area who value the quaint aspects of living in a small town, and like to sort of boast the "simple living" that we sometimes experience, and include the fact that Bethel is so uncomplicated that it does not have a full fledged traffic directional signal. Well, I too love many of the quaint aspects of living in a small town, but for me in this case, the key word is "living" and I prefer to continue doing so.