The summer season is approaching fast. It will be here this weekend with the official beginning of the summer season, Memorial Day, and that means people will be spending a lot of time on the road.
Recently I traveled from New Bedford, Massachusetts to New Rochelle, New York to attend the class reunion of the first students I had ever taught and had seen to graduation some 40 years ago.
I decided to drive, and I gave myself plenty of extra time to make the three hour trip because there are places along Route 95 where traffic comes to an unexplainable halt in spite of there being no construction, and one of those places is always where the highway hugs the Sound at New Haven, Connecticut.
As a public service, for those planning to get anywhere by car this summer, let me explain the drivers you will encounter in Southern New England as I once again had to experience them as I have made this trip often.
Although Massachusetts drivers get a bad rap as the worst drivers in the country, it must be remembered that this judgment is made by people from other states, and they have no idea that the Massachusetts bad drivers are not intrinsically bad, but are only so because they are attempting to deal with what comes into the state from elsewhere.
The thought going through the Commonwealth’s drivers’ minds is,
“Hey. I have to get somewhere. If you are driving like that, you obviously have no intention to get some place, so in the name of all that’s holy, either get out of my way, or GET OFF THE ROAD!
Keep it moving, or pull over, but I WILL get where I am going.”
Perhaps it is because their state is so small, it seems the drivers from the Biggest Little State in the Union, the Ocean State, drive very slowly, even on the interstate, as if they are afraid they will over shoot their destination.
Although the actual mileage from the Massachusetts state line to that of Connecticut is very short, the time it takes to traverse the distance is very long.
Rhode Island drivers have the annoying practice of, for whatever reason they end up in a lane, staying in it no matter how slow they are going, and not changing lanes until they arrive almost parallel to their exit at which point, without signaling or displaying any understanding that there may be other cars in the other lanes, cutting across all the lanes to get to their exit at the last minute.
If, because of construction they end up in the left lane, they will continue in that lane going the speed required in the construction zone once they are out of it. They claim a lane and stay in it, and on the rare occasion they get over so faster traffic can proceed, they more often than not assume if they use their signal light to indicate a lane change it has some magic power and that all cars in the lane they intend to enter cease to exist and the lane is clear for them to simply pull into it.
The general attitude in Connecticut is that the resident driver is alone on the highway, no one else exists, and even if they did, the Connecticut driver owns the road.
Posted state law reminds drivers that there is no passing on the right, and this seems to signal the slow Connecticut driver to get over into the left lane as quickly as possible once they enter the highway.
There seems to be a communal desire not to be in a line of traffic with cars in front, but, rather, to be at the head of said line, and if there is no line to lead, slowing down enough until such a line forms. They will cruise at their chosen speed unless some other frustrated driver attempts to pass on the right, at which point the Connecticut driver will speed up to prevent that person from getting in front of them. If, as it invariably happens, the car attempting to pass gets foiled in the attempt by a slower driver further up and cannot get into the left lane, the Connecticut driver will slow back down to the speed they had been at when the attempt to pass was begun.
By the time you get to New York, you have had enough, and you are relieved with having now to deal with a new type of driving even if it is basically all hell breaking loose.
So be aware.
As you leave New Rochelle to head back up North on Route 95, you have to pay a toll at the New York Thruway toll plaza. You are in a hostage situation as you cannot attempt to leave the state until you have paid the $1.75 ransom, or you act like an escapee and travel further north on the Boston Post Road and get on 95 closer to the state line.
When I left the reunion around midnight, or a little after, there were only two booths open at the toll plaza, and this was made very clear by the green arrows pointing down to the open lanes obvious from at least ½ mile away. Most drivers were getting over to form the two lines this necessitated, but just like those people who ignore the lane closure warnings as traffic approaches construction, and decide to ignore getting over, choosing instead to zoom to the head of the line and cut in at the front, there were those who ignored the two lines and went toward the front to cut in.
This being one of my driving pet peeves, right behind Connecticut drivers on Cape Cod, I resolved that I would not let in anyone who pulled that stunt if I had it in my power.
At one point a large black SUV settled in to my left and made repeated attempts to ease into the line in front of me, but I kept close to the car in front of me to prevent that from happening. My window was open in anticipation of handing my money to the person in the booth, and after numerous tries, the driver of the SUV rolled down his passenger side window and angrily asked,
“Can I get in the line?”
I responded by telling him I had no objection with his entering the line, but he would have to wait and get in behind me.
His angrier response was,
“Why should I have to do that?,
and I simply responded that as I had been waiting in the line for a long time, he should be willing to do so as well..
He may have cursed me out, but he did not get in front of me, nor, as I saw in the rear view mirror, did he get in the line until after the third car behind me.
A few miles further on, there were signs announcing that the three lanes were being reduced to a single right lane because of graveyard shift construction work, and, again, while most people began moving over to the right lane, there were those who zoomed on ahead as the two left lanes emptied so they could get in up where the barriers were. Apparently enough people were still smarting from this game at the toll booths and the line cutters were not being allowed in.
It was a quiet, warm night and people had their car windows open. At one point when a line cutting car decided he would just plow his way into the right lane and indicated his attention with sudden, threatening lurches, I heard someone yell,
“Go ahead. My car is heavily insured. I hope yours is too.”
The threatening lurches ceased, and as I got to the definite one lane point, I saw the car in the left lane still waiting.
After that construction the rest of the ride was uneventful, and I got the impression that Rhode Island must have some form of curfew for its residence as, when I got there, there were no cars aimlessly wandering on the highway.