Friday, April 17, 2009

Southern Driving

I love New York. Even though I moved away from there 14 years ago, I still carry it in my heart and in my accent. An acquaintance at work recently asked me where I was from. I answered “New York”. Their head tilted sideways and their eyes scrunched together a bit as they asked, “Do you commute?” I had to stifle a laugh as I replied, “Oh, you mean where do I live now?” Regardless of where I live, I will always be from New York.

I have been back to New York at least half a dozen times since leaving. I go back to visit family and friends, to show my children the place that is their birthright, and to eat real pizza. Although I have no plans to move back, I enjoy being a momentary tourist. New York really is a wonderful city.

There is, however, one thing about New York which I absolutely, unquestionably do not miss - driving in the city. The last time I drove there, it took me 40 minutes to find a parking space 6 city blocks away from where I was staying. In the process of looking for the parking space, I got flipped the bird so many times, I thought I was ready to fly. More drivers honked their horns at me than I care to remember. Good thing I have an excellent sound system in my car. They’d honk, I’d just turn up my bass a little more. (see, I remember how to be a real New Yorker). Nevertheless those 40 minutes were more stressful than the 10 hour drive before it.

I live in the country now. We honk, but only at dogs, deer or possum. We wave at each other, not offer the one finger salute. And for the most part, we take life a little slower. I like it that way. It gives me more time to breathe. It gives me a chance to be friendly and to think random thoughts. I guess that is the reason I moved away, first to the ocean and now to the country. I needed time and space to slow down. See, I drive behind tractors now – literally. I took this picture at a wide intersection yesterday on the way home from South Carolina.

What I didn’t capture was the 12 cars that were behind the van, all waiting for the Red Rider to get through the light. The amazing thing was not one of them honked their horn. No one shouted, at least not outside their own car. I sat and watched as that driver went through the light and only after he made a turn into an easement across the road did the other cars accelerate. It made me laugh, because it was such a typical North Carolina scene. And I pondered – why are so many people, including myself always in such a hurry? That man may have cost the other drivers a few minutes in their driving time, for sure. But from my perspective, the entertainment value of seeing a ride on mower leading a line of cars far outweighed any inconvenience.

I read the news this morning. Last night, on that very road, a driver lost control of his vehicle and died in the crash. The road was closed for three hours in both directions. It saddened me, because officials suspect that speeding was a factor in the accident. How ironic. A mower only slowed traffic for a few minutes. A speedster who lost his life, slowed traffic for hours. As much as I still carry New York’s rapid rhythm inside my heart, I think I will never again feel frustrated when I get stuck behind a country driver.

Do you have any driving stories? Leave a comment and tell me about it.


  1. Stone setter....I don't have any driving stories other than how polite southern drivers are...after reading your blog...I too am Puerto Rican....(moved from the island at 16) and now live in Northern Georgia..... I have a blog at you will stop by

  2. I am also a native New Yorker living in Georgia. I have a similar story. On my way home from work there were cars in front of me that had stopped. Traffic was at a standstill. I thought there was an accident. Nope. Just a chicken and her chicks crossing the road. I knew at that moment I was no longer in NY! :) - Jennifer