Road Rules

3 Aug

I’ve been in California for a little over three years now. We moved from Pennsylvania, leaving behind our families and friends and just about everything we’d ever known. We traded giant, aging maples for California oaks and crepe myrtle, and summer thunderstorms for a fire season. The adjustment hasn’t been super smooth.  At least for me.


There are some good things about the golden state though. In addition to the thunderstorms, we traded oppressive humidity for that legendary “dry heat.” It’s nice, in a desert kind of way.  And Spring in Northern California is really special. So there’s that.

I guess I’m even getting kind of used to it. Now when strangers are unusually friendly or helpful, like when the bagger at the grocery store wants to walk your cart to the car, I don’t immediately look over my shoulder and wonder what the hell they’re up to. Seriously, do I look like I can’t even make it to the car by myself? It’s a cart load of groceries, I think I can handle it.

Oops, that’s the east coast slipping out again.

After the first couple of times this happened, I asked the kids at the store if I was supposed to tip them or something. They smiled and said no. It’s just something they liked to do. Yeah, sure.  And ironing is just something I like to do, too.

Over time though, I’ve begun to realize that the people here are, truly, just being nice.

You only think they’re being nice. You’re losing your edge. Ahh, the voice that soothes me to sleep at night.

But there’s one thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. No matter how long we live here or how many times it happens, I will never be able to wrap my head around it.

People walk right out in front of you while you are driving.

Like, right out in front of you and they don’t even look. It makes me insane. And it’s not an accident, or a distraction. It’s their right. YouTube – California DMV – Rules of the Road #10 – Right of Way.

It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. In an effort to make pedestrians safer (because it’s so hard to look before you cross the street), they have given them free reign over the pavement.

I think it’s the air of entitlement that really gets me; as if I have nothing better to do than wait (with a smile) for someone to meander across the road in front of me. It triggers a deep, sadistic itch to mash the pedal to the floor and run them down. Who doesn’t look before they cross the street? Hey! I’m driving here!

It’s worse in parking lots, as you can imagine. It’s so rampant that sometimes it can take fifteen minutes to go from one end of a shopping center to the other. Is there something wrong with the sidewalk? Perhaps we could pass a new law allowing me to drive there.

I had a guy do it as I was leaving the development the other day. I was driving down the street and this guy was getting his mail. He stepped into the road as I approached, right out in front of me, and never even looked.

Here is the crux of it. This is the part where my blood just begins to boil.  Everyone just assumes that the car will stop or slow down, that it’s no problem for me to accommodate them, that somehow they have the right of way. Okay, I guess they do have the right of way, but that doesn’t make it right. It just makes it legal. Stupid and annoying, but legal.

And anyway, you know what they say about assuming. That it makes the driver of the car you just walked out in front of want to run your ass over.  It’s something like that. I’m sure I’ve heard it before.

So the guy walked into the street and I literally had to stop my car so I didn’t hit him.  It took everything I had, trust me.  At this point, you might think he would’ve looked up and waved, ya’ know, as a small token of thanks for not running him down like a piece of jerky. You might think that, I know I sure did. But no. He leisurely leafed through his envelopes and checked out the sale flyer from Costco as he continued across, oh so confident in his right to be there and in his safety.

I guess they figure that all drivers are nice, like them. Don’t bet on it. Some of us are still adjusting to all of this sunshine.

So let’s just call this one a public service announcement, a kind of health advisory, if you will.

Let this be a warning to all those westerners thinking of traveling east. If I were you, I’d think twice before I stepped into the street, or even the parking lot at Walmart, without looking.

The rules of the road are different on the other coast, along with the attitude of the natives.  Maybe it’s the constant cloud cover or maybe it’s the humidity, but I absolutely guarantee that people back home will run you down.  And maybe you’d just deserve it.

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One Response to “Road Rules”

  1. Kimmer October 4, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    I absolutely agree with you…that drives me nuts. I think that some westerners have moved over here and assume that it’s the same, bc I’m seeing more and more of people not looking or caring when they step into the street.

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