Friday, April 25, 2008

Things I Have Learned While Driving in Virginia

I have lived in Virginia for over 7 years at this point. Although I'd been driving for many years before coming here, it is apparent to me now that there are certain rules of the road of which I had previously been unaware. With that in mind, I've put together a couple of lists:

Things I've Learned While Driving in Virginia:

  1. It is of paramount importance that I arrive at the next turn or exit ramp before the car or cars in front of me, even if that means I have to swing out, exceed the speed limit by 30 MPH, and cut off the car(s) that I pass. This may shave up to 6 seconds off my daily commute. If someone blows a horn at me, I will be astonished and/or angry at the rudeness.
  2. I do not need to press on my accelerator and maintain speed while driving up a hill. It doesn't matter if this means that my cruise control is smarter than I am.
  3. When coming to a red light on a multi-lane road, if there is a car in my lane and no car in another lane, I must change lanes to get into the empty one, even if I have no intention of going faster than the car that was in front of me. If you ain't the lead dog, the view is always the same.
  4. If I am in the left lane and need to turn right, I do not need to change lanes until I'm 20 feet away from my intersection. At this point I can either speed up (see 1) or slam on my brakes and disrupt traffic until there's an opening in the right lane. Anything else would require planning ahead.
  5. The painting of stop lines at intersections is a waste of my taxpayer dollars.
  6. Ditto the erection of "No Turn On Red" signs.
  7. When I stop at a red traffic signal, the earth ceases to spin on its axis, time comes to a standstill, and therefore it's OK for me to do anything I want to do, as long as I'm not paying attention to the traffic signal any more. If, by some miracle, it should ever become green again, some considerate motorist behind me will blow his or her horn as a favor to me.
  8. I must come nearly to a complete stop before turning right.
  9. When I merge onto the freeway, I must get into the farthest left lane as quickly as possible, whether I'm planning on passing any of the traffic or not. I must stay in this lane until I'm ready to exit. See 1.
  10. While maneuvering through a parking lot, there are sometimes arrows painted on the lane and the cars on either side of me are parked at an angle. These facts convey no information whatsoever. I will never understand why some people look only one direction when backing their car out of a parking space under these circumstances, and again may have the opportunity to practice my surprise and/or anger response.
  11. "Right turn on red after stop" means "right turn on red after slowing down enough to determine that I might not die if I don't stop."

I haven't driven nearly as much in Maryland or DC, but I have learned a couple of things while driving there, as well.

Things I've Learned While Driving in Maryland:

  1. "Merge" means I should run up to the end of the on-ramp as quickly as possible. I then bluff my way in, even if I have to drive on the shoulder for half a mile or so. Either that, or I come to a complete stop and wait for an opening in traffic.
  2. The lines in a parking lot are merely suggestions for where I should put my car.

And finally,

The One Thing I've Learned While Driving in DC:

  1. I can park anywhere I want for as long as I want: Beside other parked cars, next to fire hydrants, in front of driveways, in bus or taxi lanes, or even diagonally across a busy intersection, as long as I turn on my emergency flashers. This tells everyone (including the police) that I am on a very important mission and simply don't have time to find a legal parking space. I am therefore immune from traffic tickets and the ire of other motorists.

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