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Four-Way to Nowhere

March 11, 2008 - Wes Burns
Its a blog from Marshalltown!

With that said let's get down to brass tax: what happened to the four way intersection? I know you're probably thinking “But...I've seen those intersections around town.” or “My mother lives by a four way intersection!” or even “Why am I still reading this?” I'll tell you why, intrepid reader. But first, some context.

As a child, in the long long ago, I would often drive with my parents throughout Marshalltown. Many an afternoon or evening was peppered with brief interludes in our vehicle; at the time I believe it was some sort of hatch-back. During these halcyon days of my youth I would marvel at the fluid precision of our traffic lights and signs. The whole system just made sense in my childish mind: Regan was the President, the United States owned the moon and a stop sign meant that you stopped.

Oh how the times have changed. Gone are the days of reasonable driving, only to be replaced by four adults that cannot deduce a feasible answer to the question “is it my turn to go?” We've all seen it. You pull up to an intersection as a vehicle stops to your right. Now we all took driver's education in high school. In between viewings of cautionary tales of graphic accidents and the resulting panic attacks/medicating we all learned that the person on the right goes first.

Doesn't happen, does it? First the driver of the car that should go stares at you, attempting to ascertain if YOU know the answer to “who goes first?”. You try to convey that indeed it is the first driver that should go...yet they do not. You and the first driver quickly become locked in a struggle between slowly inching either vehicle forward, to be quickly followed by an immediate brake slamming for fear that the other driver is about to enter the intersection and destroy your Ford Taurus.

At this moment one of two scenarios can occur, both horrifying if you by chance have somewhere to go and no longer have patience for the other driver.

1.After repeated starts and stops you hammer on the gas and fly through the intersection. While you make eye contact with the other driver your look of condemnation is no watch for the series of rude hand gestures available to the first driver. Your feelings hurt you continue on to your way.

2.After repeated starts and stops a THIRD CAR stops, albeit briefly, and sails through the intersection much to the chagrin of both yourself and the other driver. While you may be happy to see someone make it through you are left with the uneasy knowledge that your face off with the first driver remains.

This doesn't happen in Los Angeles. This doesn't happen in Chicago. This wouldn't even happen in Eugene, Oregon. This is an Iowa event...maybe the Midwest in general but as I have no experience living elsewhere in the Midwest I shall but the blame squarely on us. We, as Iowans, all participate in this not-so-subtle of overbearing politeness. The ridiculous dance between two people in a store as they find their paths are about to cross, the car slowing down to allow traffic to merge from an on-ramp instead of simply changing lanes, and of course the interminable duel between parties when in the presence of the dinner check.

I can't say these are all bad things; I for one am always happy to see a dining companion dive for the check, only to realize too late that I'm not going to argue. So don't be afraid to occasionally let somebody get that check or to change that lane. If not then just hold on those brakes a little longer, I think its my turn to go.


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