Monday, January 5, 2009

Holy Crap, I Used to Love Driving

Minnesota is not a state for drivers, just like the ocean is not a geographical form for air-breathers.

I had one simple trip to make today: register my independent study class at the St. Paul Metro State campus.  A twenty-minute drive in either direction.  Once I got there, it took less than 30 seconds to enter the Registration office, hand a worker my application, receive instructions that I'd be contacted by phone once it went through, and leave.  It seriously was that quick.

But it was one thin strand of meat and cheese in a bulky, undercooked, moldy tortilla of ignorance, forming the most hateful burrito.

You know those four-way stops, where you pull up, stop, and go?  Where you pull up, someone else pulls up, you go and then they go?  You take turns like that?  Apparently I live near a magical four-way stop constructed by anarchist masons, where you pull up and anybody who fucking feels like it pulls out in front of you, be it a salt truck, a yuppie with a douchy faux-hawk, or a guy skidding around on the ice with his ten-speed bike.  Or, in my case, all three at once.

The highway was harrowing.  Envoys from Greece must've installed all these "LANE ENDS, MERGE LEFT" signs, because Minnesotans have never seen them before in their lives and cannot interpret them to save their lives.  They will hover next to you even as their little white line turns dotted, even as it disappears and the concrete wall comes drawing ever nearer their passenger side.  Even then, it never occurs to them what is happening but it's somehow your fault, not theirs.

I was waiting at a red light and when it finally turned green I started to leave.  One car drove through from the right, and then a second car drove through (this is at a no-turn-on-red intersection).  The third car driving through forced me to brake.  He glanced up, gave a limp wave as if to forgive me my transgression, and coasted through his red light in all nonchalance.

And I'd like to say an ambulance cut me off, that would be a better story, but it was only an Allina Home Oxygen Medical Supply truck.  He was in the left lane, an exit-only lane for the highway, and I was in the right lane.  Abruptly he decided he needed my lane and drove into it.  He would have driven into me if I hadn't been quicker, again, on the brakes.  Once in front of me, he slammed on his brakes.  He had a green light and the street was empty in front of him for a full block: he simply decided to teach me a little lesson in impertinence, I suppose.

I tried to go around him so he sped up.  I hit a patch of unplowed snow (this was in a low-income neighborhood where plowing is a low priority) and started skidding toward a parked car.  The Allina driver helped out not by driving ahead to clear the area around me, but by slowing down to block my car from getting out of the snow.  Slower and slower we went: I, struggling to keep the car from spinning, and he, struggling to keep me from clear road.  Fortunately, I could see in his passenger-side mirror, none of this nonsense kept him from his phone call.  Eventually we slowed to under five miles an hour and he decided his prank wasn't worth that much time, and he drove off.  I got the car under control and moved back into the cleared street.

That was when I drove up to the magic anarchical four-way stop.

Once, long ago, driving was a joy to me.  A very long time ago.

(This post, per previous experiment, was written via Safari.)

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