Friday, September 7, 2012

On the Road

As I was coming to work this morning, I noticed that the driver in the car behind me was talking on his not-hands-free cell phone. This is not an uncommon sight, despite the law here in New York. It became far more disturbing, however, when I saw him flick his cigarette ashes out the window with the other hand!

After a few minutes where I did my best to stay far enough ahead of him to avoid our cars becoming up close and personal, I was relieved to see him make a left turn. I'm not sure how he managed to turn the steering wheel, though.


One of the messages that's been appearing on highway signs recently (along with "NYS Law -- Hands-free devices only") is the somewhat puzzling "Move over for stopped emergency vehicles." Yes, it would seem logical that if I am driving down the highway and there is an ambulance or fire truck stopped in the lane in front of me, I should move over or I am not going to get very far.

That is not what the message means, however. It apparently refers to situations where you are stuck in traffic and an emergency vehicle is behind you, lights flashing and siren blaring, trying to get somewhere. Well, yes, I sure would like to get out of their way, but if we're locked in a traffic jam, there's nowhere for me to go!

Wishing doesn't make it so nor does a sign advertising this law. In fact, neither would a police officer writing a ticket for failure to follow that law, presuming that one could actually get to the scene of the "crime."


There is no question that a GPS is a great help for drivers, particularly those who cannot read a map. (Will map reading become a lost art, like using a slide rule?) But whenever someone starts talking about how infallible they are, I tell the story of Sammi's GPS "Bernice."

She and I were driving from Virginia to New York, crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. For those unfamiliar with it, the bridge has to separate spans and, usually, the traffic flows west of the northern span and east on the southern one. However, to ease traffic flow, they will sometimes change one lane on the northern span to accommodate eastbound traffic.

Such was the case on this occasion and we were in that "reverse-traffic" lane. Well, Bernice was not programmed to deal with this and decided that we were driving the wrong way. We started getting continuous warnings: "Turn around now!" "Make a u-turn NOW!"

Sammi was on the phone with Chuck at the time -- I was driving, so no hands-free devices were necessary -- and he said, "Who is that yelling?" When Sammi replied that it was just Bernice, he said, "Who the heck is Bernice and why is she in your car?"

Once we had finished crossing the bridge -- not so quickly, since the bridge is four miles long -- Bernice finally calmed down. Good thing because I have no idea how you deal with a GPS that has had a nervous breakdown.

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