Just like John Mellencamp (or Cougar, or Cougar Mellencamp), I was born in a small town. And just like John Denver, I thank God I’m a Country Boy. I really don’t like living “in town,” much less in a large city. I lived in Moorhead, Minnesota (Population 39,000), for a few years while attending school. I didn’t like that. I lived in St. Paul, Minnesota (population 275,000) the first couple years Kendra and I were married. That was okay, but mostly because I was a newlywed. After two years we returned to God’s Country. Finally, I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine (population who knows? Three to five million). I liked that even less.
I’m so thankful to live where I do. The air is fresh, it’s quiet, the nights are dark and stars plainly visible. Ahh…. But it has its drawbacks. One is the lack of any non-government jobs that pay a half-ways decent salary. The other is drivers, specifically small town drivers.
North Dakota is infamous for its drivers, and rightly so. We Minnesotans brag that we’re better drivers than they are, but I live only fifty miles away from the Red River, and if we’re honest with ourselves, drivers here are almost as bad as North Dakota drivers.
There are the usual offenses, such as pulling out in front of an oncoming car and then driving fifteen miles per hour below the speed limit, failing to use turn signals, and tailgating. I have to admit I sometimes don’t use my signals either, but only when there are no other cars around—gotta save on the blinkers, you know.
But one thing people around here are utterly incompetent at is using intersections that have stop signs. The concept is simple: if two cars arrive at a four-way stop at the same time, the vehicle on the left yields to the vehicle on the right.
Apparently this is too complicated for a lot of people. How many times have you pulled to a stop even a second after the person to your right, and yet they sit there? Then they wave you on? Or better yet, you each make lurching stops, seeing who’s gonna make it across first?
Many people try to circumvent these awkward situations by slowing to a crawl when they see another car approaching the stop sign at about the same time. It’s like a race to see who can get there last.
The past eight months of driving at home has caused me to make a paradigm shift in my thinking. In the past, I’ve been adamant about how awful roundabouts are, having experienced them at length while living in Europe (see my book "Kyiv Diary"!).
I now have to admit, however, that there are certain intersections where roundabouts are a good idea. For you Detroit Lakes people, a couple prime examples are the intersections of Willow Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and the dreaded Frazee Street/McKinley Avenue intersection (by Central Market and Holiday). You don’t need long to observe all the behaviors I’ve described at either of those spots.
Let it be known that I don’t want to be like the British, who think a roundabout is necessary for every single place where two roads intersect. Ukrainians wisely use a combination of roundabouts and “regular” intersections (although they don’t have uniform rules for their roundabouts, which is confusing as can be). I still prefer stops signs and traffic lights in most situations, but there are places where it’s better to herd people through like cattle, rather than trust them to remember traffic rules they learned thirty years ago in Driver’s Ed.
Drive carefully, and remember to use your blinkers!
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...