This weekend included a little R&R, with a trip to Tennessee landmark the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Like any trip to Nashville, I was soon thankful for my daily commute. Yes, people drive too fast on Lantana Rd. And yes, there is great confusion at four-way stops or when a power outage interrupts a traffic signal’s work. But I’ll take my “rush minute” to their hours of gridlock any day.
I found this column I penned back in 2012. Since my weekend travels left little time for writing, I thought it might be a good time to bring this one back for a re-run. If anything, traffic has gotten worse around Music City since this was written and a little positive “car-ma” is needed even more now than it was then.
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There's nothing like a trip to Nashville to make you want to stop your car at the Cumberland County line and kiss the roads you drive on.
A recent road trip found me trying to navigate my way through Nashville traffic at the beginning of rush hour. I'm not the best navigator under the best of circumstances and, unfortunately, my GPS doesn't help me by saying, "Hey, Dummy! You need to get in the other lane." By the time I made it to Lebanon, my usually cool, calm and collected persona was replaced by a nutcase scared of my own shadow. Thank goodness I wasn't stuck in peak traffic.
The thing about Nashville drivers is they know where they're going and they don't have a lot of patience for those of us who don't. I've seen people with nerves of steel cross four lanes of interstate traffic to get to the proper exit. Me? I just go to the next one and try to find my way back among the one-way streets and detours.
And, you just don't feel like anyone on the road with you is in any way looking out for you, happy to be sharing the road with you or even happy you exist on this planet. They'll cut you off and they'll not feel a bit of remorse because they're getting to their destination just a little bit quicker.
When I grew up, driving in my small town wasn't such a "take your life into your own hands" affair. Motorists practiced common courtesy. One of those things was "the wave." There's an e-mail floating around out there about the intricacies of driving in the South. Among those is a statement, "In the South, while driving, we will wave at you even if we don't know you." I guess they didn't get that memo in Nashville. And, to be honest, I don't think it's practiced all that much in Cumberland County any longer.
When I was a kid, the wave was everywhere. I remember hopping into my Poppa's pick-up truck to go with him to Druthers for his morning coffee or to the Co-Op to pick up feed for his horses. He'd throw up a two-finger greeting to the people we passed on the road. Sometimes he knew the person he was waving at. Other times he didn't. But he'd still wave, offering that motorist a little sign of friendship and courtesy.
I find myself doing the wave on occasion, especially if I've gone a good stretch without meeting anyone. But with all the traffic on Dunbar and Lantana Roads, waving becomes impractical. I'd spend my entire drive to town waving.
That's probably why there's no waving in Nashville, too. But, I'm happy to report, there were signs of courteous driving. Stuck at a traffic light I realized, all too late, that I needed to be over one lane if I wanted to be able to merge onto the interstate. There was a line of traffic to right and I was already dreading the horn honking I'd get as I waited for a space to open up and allow me over. Some nice soul was looking out for me, and my trusty turn signal light, and let me over first thing. So, to whoever you were, thank you very much. I hope you saw that I waved in gratitude.
That's another thing. When you are the recipient of such a kindness, the wave should be used. It's just good manners. A little wave says, "Thanks. I appreciate you helping me out." I always try to wave in those situations. Some people don't and it leaves the impression these are the folks that are going to cut you off in traffic or just force their way into a line of traffic. Just watch drivers on West Avenue when the road goes from two lanes to one. You see a lot of this. Or, on Lantana Road with all the construction. Sometimes, you can wait for ages to make a turn, left or right. It's nice when someone stops and holds back the flood to let you out.
We could all use a little more courtesy in our driving. Especially if we're at a certain local retail establishment where, despite arrows directing us which way to go and the fact you'll have a devil of a time parking if you go the wrong way, drivers still go the wrong way. I know. Sometimes it just happens. But, when it does, it's really best not to gun your engine and go down that lane as fast as you can. Those pulling out may not think to look the opposite direction in a one-way lane for oncoming traffic. And, you shouldn't drive fast through a parking lot, anyway. There could be pedestrians, including the little human variety called kids.
And, don't go cutting across the empty part of the parking lot to get where you're going a little bit quicker. As someone who was T-boned in a parking lot because of this very thing, let me tell you it's dangerous. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. They make those lines for a reason. It's so there's a little bit of order and we're not driving in the wild, wild west.
Sometimes drivers have become frustrated waiting for the car in front of them to go on already only to find they've basically parked in the middle of traffic so that someone doesn't have to walk far and load up three carts full of stuff. Really folks, that is incredibly rude. Park your car and walk with the legs God gave you. If you have a valid medical reason why you can't do that, there's plenty of reserved parking right up front.
Driving, whether on the interstate, county roads or in parking lots, has the ability to make one's blood boil. But, calm down and show a little love for the others out there with you. It will make the experience easier for everyone.
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Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published in the Tuesday edition of the Chronicle. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.