Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Other Parking Lot Debacles

Given: All contracts for parking lot design in Rhode Island are given to the children of local, well-connected gentlemen who think their sons and daughters are the next Frederick Law Olmsted, or Guo Pu, just because those sons and daughters can navigate through the complex scenery of Grand Theft Auto. "Yeah, Mr. Mayor, Rocco Jr. here has a real knack for transportation. I'll give you $50,000 for your reelection campaign if you give my company the contract to build Rocco Jr.'s design for the Smithfield Commons parking lot. Just look at the wonderful work he did on devising the traffic patterns in the Providence Place Mall parking garage."

For those loyal readers outside of Rhode Island, go ahead and infer that those two parking scenarios are the biggest clusterf-s in a state notorious for transportation clusterf-s.

Yes, the baseline is very low for an ideal parking lot experience in Rhode Island, so please salvage what you can. For starters, please don't travel THROUGH open parking spaces like you're in a g-damn demolition derby. Stick to the traveling lanes while navigating to your desired parking spot. I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been clipped by drivers cutting across rows of parking spaces on their way to a spot.

Second, when leaving a spot, go ahead and pretend that you're on a two-way street. Back out far enough so you can drive past me on my left. This isn't merry ol' England. We don't have nationalized health care that will take great care of me after you ram into me head-on. I'm not given a month of paid recovery time, so just pretend that you're on a regular road when driving down parking lanes, and I won't have to burden my crappy health insurance company with claims inflicted by your stupid, limey-wannabe ass.

Third, there is a time and a place to stop and hover in anticipation of a departing shopper's parking space, and that time and place is NOT on the one-way, up-ramp of a busy parking garage when 50 cars are behind you at Christmas time. Just keep going. That space will go to the lucky person who's approaching AS the departing shopper starts to back out of his/her space. While you sit there for 3 minutes as the departing shopper opens her trunk, puts her bags away, straps the lad into the car seat, and adjusts her bra, you could have parked in an equally decent space somewhere upward. Beyond that, you wouldn't have infuriated the 50 (and counting) drivers behind you. Let's agree on this rule: while traveling upward on a one-way ramp in a busy parking garage, a departing shopper's space goes to the upward traveller who arrives at the space as the departing shopper starts to back out of his/her space.

Finally, if for some reason you can't take the extra 20 seconds out of your life to push your empty cart into the parking lot's empty cart repository, or if there is no empty cart repository, then park your empty cart in the following manner: place it PARALLEL to your car directly on top of the four-corner cross of the adjacent parking spaces. Then, after placing it, wait 3 seconds to make sure that it does not roll out of that position. Do not place it haphazardly in the middle of the empty parking space next to you. In fact, if you can't place it parallel to your car directly on top of the four-corner cross of the adjacent parking spaces, then burn off some of that Big Mac and return the cart to the front of the store.

Your non-nepotistic, conscientious fellow motorists thank you in advance.

Oh, and one more thing. Why on Earth did the state and/or city of Smithfield and/or Rocco Sr. pay to have the Route 44 East exit ramp off 295 Southbound pulled back one hundred lousy feet? It did not make the intersection at the entrance of Smithfield Commons any easier. You still have through-drivers crossing desperately to get to the left lane on 44, and you still have shoppers crossing madly into the right lane to get to the Commons. They should have constructed an on/off ramp that would have flowed traffic directly between 295 and the parking lot – bypassing 44 completely. "I think the audience would agree with me on that one."

I hope, as it is the state motto.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'll Take Another Half-baked, R.I. Parking Lot Idea, and a Coke, Please

Here's a new and idiotic phenomenon that only a Rhode Islander would dare conceive: the two-lane drive-thru (at the Lincoln Mall McDonald's). I'm not talking about the efficient, "both-sides-of-the-building-have-independent-drive-thru-windows" drive-thru, I'm talking about the cluster-f, "both-lanes-end-up-at-the-same-window-after-placing-orders-at-two-separate-intercoms" drive-thru.

What is the point? As both lanes converge at the same window, the McD's is going to end up servicing the same number of people that it would have serviced using one lane. The second lane only adds confusion, frustration, and the possibility of incident to the drive-thru equation. Of course, there's the argument: "But the McDonald's would be able to process twice as many orders." Bullshit.

Let's say McDonald's WAS able to process twice as many orders. Those orders would just end up bottlenecked at the window, as you would have two orders ready for every one car at the window. Moreover, if one gargantuan, complex, "I-have-four-morbidly-obese-teenagers-in-the-back-of-my-minivan" order preceded four easy "fries-and-a-Coke" orders, you'd have a backlog of lower-quality, soggy fries and watered-down Cokes. Then, you would have lower customer satisfaction, then you would have less business, then you would have to dismantle and sell off your expensive, second drive-thru intercom. It's a hideous, downward business spiral, but I haven't mentioned the worst part yet: the inevitable injustice of assigning car priority at the order intercoms.

True story: I stopped at the aforementioned McDonald's 10 days ago. As I turned the corner at the rear of the building, I noticed the new, dual-drive-thru-lanes scheme. Seeing a motorist backing out of the outside lane and stopping to talk on his cell phone, I opted for the inside lane. A motorist was already at the inside intercom placing his order. The outside lane remained empty. The motorist in front of me (let's call him Gil), finished placing his order, but could not pull forward, as a car was in front of him. The outside lane remained empty. The car in front of Gil pulled forward, but Gil, probably a green light sloth, sat there adjusting his crotch for 3 seconds, allowing just enough time for a car to pull up to the outside lane intercom (this was not the original, cell phone car). While I was shouting obscenities at Gil, Gil finally got his junk in order and pulled forward. I arrived at the inside lane intercom, and got a "just a moment please" from the speaker. I turned to my right and saw the guy at the outside lane intercom finish his order & start to pull forward to a position behind Gil.

Ready to go off like a neutron bomb, I instantly boycotted the McDonald's, threw Rusty (my car) into reverse, and sped off to the adjacent Stop & Shop for muffins. You lose, McDonald's. You might as well put that outside intercom on Craigslist now, 'cause Stop & Shop makes a mean Raisin Bran muffin.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Incomplete Guide to Complete Stops

Here's what the (gulp) Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles Driver's Manual says regarding four-way stops:

Follow these procedures when at an intersection with a four-way stop:

• Once stopped, you must yield to all other vehicles that were stopped prior to your arrival at the stop sign.

• Once having stopped, all other vehicles arriving at the intersection after you must yield the right of way to you.

• If two vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time, you must yield the right of way to the vehicle on your right.

• As always, being courteous and respectful will help prevent dangerous situations and make the roadways safer for all drivers.

(Whew!) That was surprisingly concise and precise. Of course, to paraphrase Seinfeld: You know how to read the procedures, you just don't know how to follow the procedures. And that's really the most important part of the procedures: the following. Anybody can just read 'em. 

What's sad is that you DON'T read the procedures, Rhode Islanders, for if you READ the procedures, you would know that in order to expedite your trip, you wouldn't race through a four-way stop, you would race to the four-way stop. And by "race to," I don't mean you should speed up to the intersection and stop short, I mean that you should strive to be the first vehicle to come to a complete stop (yes, at your stop line) at the intersection. Then, the world would be your oyster, especially if someone then fails to yield to you, crashes into you, and gives you a mild concussion that prevents you from getting to the big meeting, at which you would have closed the Johnson account and made the company 4.6 million dollars. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Positive, One Week Anniversary Nugget

One great thing about living in Rhode Island is this: You seldom find yourself more than 10 minutes away from any needed service. Furthermore, if heaven is having options at hand, then consider yourself a saint if you live between Warwick and Woonsocket. I frequent 4 grocery stores, 2 movie theaters, 2 Targets, and 4.6 million or so Dunkin' Donuts locations. There. Now increase, property values, so I can sell my condo and get the f- out of here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Johnny "and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad" Drivers

Keith Olbermann has his "Worst Person in the World," I have my "Worst Drivers on the Road." Who are they? They are the perpetrators of the most infamous road annoyance of all. They are the dreaded Green Light Sloths.

If I don't notice you at all, you are a most likely a good driver. If you don't obstruct me, and don't waste my & other motorists' time, you are most likely a good driver. The green light sloths immediately fail those two litmus tests. Picture this: You are in a long line of vehicles at a left turn stop light. You know that when the light turns green, you are going to have a very limited time to get through the intersection. The light turns green, and the person at the front of the line remains stopped for three seconds. What could this person possibly be doing? If it's a man, perhaps he's adjusting his sack. Now that's fine, just NOT WHEN YOU'RE FIRST IN LINE AT A STOP LIGHT WITH A LINE OF VEHICLES BEHIND YOU. YOU HAVE ONE JOB: GET THROUGH THE INTERSECTION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, SO THE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU CAN DO THE SAME. The person in front has gotten everyone's attention. Strike one. He/She has decreased the chances of the motorists behind him/her making the light, and wasted their time. Strike two. He/She doesn't get a third strike, because he/she sucks.

AS IF THAT WASN'T BAD ENOUGH: The person in front has finally gotten his junk in working order, and has progressed through the intersection, but the person second in line thinks that he/she is going 70 on the highway, and creates a 3 second gap between him/herself and the first person. YOU'RE GOING 2 MILES PER HOUR, YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAINTAIN A LARGE GAP. This is the one time that we will all encourage you to tailgate, but you have failed, and you are as bad a green light sloth as the first person.

In summary, I think you get the idea. Just go on green. You have the power to improve the lives of so many stuck behind your lackadaisical ass. Just watch the light, and go on green. Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Forward to the Landfill in Reverse!

The frustration never ends on Rhode Island roads. Without fail, the ignorami (Don't mess with me, automatic spelling checker, that's a word) come out of the woods to somehow thwart my morning commute. This morning, they came out within a half-mile of my home in the form of a garbage truck. 

There I was, driving westbound on a two-lane, back road, approaching a garbage truck that was stopped; facing me in the eastbound lane. As I approached, the garbage truck started to roll, not forward toward me as any sane person might progress on a two-lane, back road, BUT BACKWARD, AWAY FROM ME. So now both lanes of traffic on this narrow, two-lane, back road, are heading westbound: one in the usual headlights-first, forward manner; the other in the highly unorthodox, taillights-first, please-crash-into-me-so-I-can-crush-you-in-my-compactor, backward manner. 

Onward we dominated the road for a solid quarter-mile. All the while, I stayed 50 feet in front of (or should I say behind? "I'm just a caveman, your honor. Your world frightens and confuses me.") the garbage truck, staring at the driver and mouthing phrases fit for "The Old Man" in A Christmas Story. 

Finally, and thankfully without incident (beyond the ludicrous situation itself), the garbage truck stopped and embarked on a more conventional, forward quest down a new road by taking a standard, right hand turn. I continued to stare bemusedly at the driver as I passed him. He returned my look and gave me a "What's the problem?" expression. I shook my head and continued on to work. 

"What's the problem?"

THAT's the problem. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Inklings of Destiny?

A year ago, my wife and I were talking about places to which we might like to move. We tossed around the notions of North Carolina, Virginia and Vermont. Essentially, we wanted to find a place where we could afford a good-sized plot of land for the dog; somewhere that was developed, but also had breathtaking natural settings close by . . . and, of course, somewhere with better drivers and less pride in mediocrity: the anti-Rhode Island, if you will. All those afore-mentioned states seemed like viable alternatives, but there was one other place that I couldn't help but feel drawn to explore: Boise, Idaho. Why?

Well, a state capital city must have at least one decent restaurant and movie theater. It's near the Rocky Mountains, so it must have some decent hiking trails. Land must be rather inexpensive, because whom the hell do you know who has moved to Boise? And, it might not be so developed that I couldn't successfully open my dream business of a coffee & t-shirt store.

Nary did I know that there was something else about Idaho that was the biggest deal maker of all. Nary did I know until just this morning, in doing some research for today's posting (which was supposed to be about car spacing through traffic lights) that my wife and I might just be cosmically linked to a future in Idaho. What is this factoid that has me fantasizing of calling the moving company this week? Here you go.

In all fairness, Rhode Island has improved (formerly, annually ranked last), but still very much sucks. And New York, don't think I haven't noticed your position. I'll get to you in due time, you slow-passing, blind spot lingerers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stay Wide, Ponyboy, Stay Wide

Visualize this situation that tends to ruin the last leg of my morning commute. I'm at a stop light in the left lane of two left turn lanes. To my right, in the right lane of the two left turn lanes, is Mr. I-commute-to-my-desk-job-in-a-Ford-F-250-because-I'm-overcompensating-for-my-small-penis. Our lights go green, and I start a rounded turn to avoid scraping the car positioned at my 10 o'clock that is stopped at its own light in preparation to cross the intersection. My destination: the left lane of the road I'm turning on to. Mr. Overcompensation, meanwhile, makes a beeline for the right lane of the road we're turning on to, cuts off my radius, and forces me to brake, lean on my horn, and shout "YOU CAN OVERCOMPENSATE FOR YOUR SMALL PENIS, BUT YOU CAN'T COMPENSATE IN THE LEAST FOR MY TURNING RADIUS??!!"

Pay attention now, Rhode Islanders, the proper way to make a left turn from the right lane of two left turn lanes is to proceed straight for what might feel like an uncomfortably long time, then proceed into a WIDE, rounded left turn into the right lane of the road you're turning on to. Your goal is to return your steering wheel back to straight position AS you reach the threshold of your destination lane.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The "Style" Myth, and Left Lane Stragglers

Contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no room for "style" in motoring habits. You're either driving correctly, or you're not. Here's an idiotic, Rhode Island example: "I don't know why everyone is always pushing me or riding my ass when I'm driving in the left lane on I-95. I always drive in the left lane. It's my style." Oh? I'd say your style is ignorance! All together now: THE LEFT LANE IS FOR PASSING, NOT TRAVELING! Only use the left lane when you MUST (e.g., within a half mile of a left exit).