Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bobby Jones Expressway

In my month-long sojourn North, there was one element of Augusta life I did not miss, not one little bit. The heat, you might guess? No, no, it wasn't the heat. The humidity? Nope.

The answer in three succinct words: Bobby Jones Expressway.

Please don't let the term "Expressway" confuse you. There's nothing quick or convenient about it. Bobby Jones may be the death of me, though I  hope this is not literally true.

Some people seem to carry a map in their heads and are able to find their way around town even when the usual routes are closed. I am not one of those people.

I blame it on the Land Ordinance of 1785.

I grew up outside Detroit. The suburbs of Detroit are laid out in a perfect grid, per the requirements of the aforementioned Land Ordinance. It's hard to get lost when the roads are Eight Mile Road, Nine Mile Road, Ten Mile Road, etc.. I don't know how high the numbers  go, but I worked at a camp on Thirty-Three Mile Road. Those roads meet at  precise and clean ninety degree angles with other major streets spaced precisely one mile apart.

Beautiful. Logical. Helpful to the geographically impaired among us.

The second set of roads are named, not numbered, so this requires a little memory work. But, still, if you say, "The restaurant's at Ten Mile and Southfield," everyone knows where it is and about how long it should take to get there.

Bobby Jones, the handy- dandy non-expressway  near our house is under perma-construction, emphasis on perma. Last year as we drove to swim team, I said again and again, "Just think, kids. Next year we won't have construction to contend with!"

Just call me Pollyanna.

Not only is is Not Done, it's far, far worse than last year as in they're working right here, right now, on our entrance ramp. Conditions were grim yesterday when four lanes converged into two; this morning one scrawny lane was open. The up side is that traffic was slowed to just about a crawl so merging into that one lane wasn't quite as terrifying as it was yesterday.

I don't drive well under pressure. Years ago I moved from Augusta to North Augusta. When you cross the Savannah River, you change states and if you change states, you change your driver's license. Note to self: If you should do this again, do not let the former license expire before securing the latter else You Will Have to Take A Driver's Test.

A Driver's Test.

At age 24.

Many people remember a driver's test at 16 and the terror, perhaps the shame, that went along with that. I do not remember these things because I never took a driver's test at 16. I should clarify that I did take a ten question written test prior to receiving an unrestricted license to drive. Michigan, it seems, was flat broke in 1980. Among the austerity measures taken was waiving the road test given to new drivers.

All this is to say that taking my one and only road test at 24 was nothing short of terrifying.

As I said, I don't drive well under pressure, and among the maneuvers I bungle when stressed, backing up tops the list. One day I pulled Dave's truck into a crowded church parking lot. I don't drive the truck if I can avoid it. It is large. I am small. I am very comfortable with my boring van. I find the truck unwieldy. Well, this Sunday found me attempting to fit a large truck into a small parking space. And next to my small parking space was parked a Gleaming Lexus whose owner had just exited the vehicle. He stood off to the side watching me maneuver Large Truck. And I thought, "How kind. He's here to help me out. You know, do the a little to the left, a little to the right thing and help me get Large Truck parked just right."

No, no.

He was just looking out for Gleaming Lexus.

And, lucky me, I was stuck doing my least favorite maneuver in my least favorite vehicle with an audience.

Head bang.

And I flashed back to my road test at age 24. I drove and turned and braked and used my turn signals and adjusted my mirrors and even rocked the parallel parking. And then the nice instructor told me to back up. Even in my trusty Nova without Gleaming Lexus and Glowering Owner staring me down, I broke out in a cold sweat. I threw it in reverse and backed up. Nice Instructor shook her head and began furiously scribbling notes on a clipboard.

I passed.

Thank you, good and gracious God, I passed.

Failing a road test at 24 would have been too much.

But that gut-wrenching panic of parking Behemoth Truck in front of Gleaming Lexus and Observant Owner, of taking a driver's test at 24, all of it comes back to me each time I merge onto Bobby Jones.

We returned home late from the pool last night. The road working crew was out in force, working late under bright lights. God bless them and protect them. It certainly isn't easy work. I will breathe a little easier when it's done.


christinelaennec said...

Sorry to hear about your traffic woes. We often use the Clydeside Expressway, which almost always does get you into or out of town quickly. There's also a bus that whizzes along it, and it's the quickest way to travel short of teleportation. So perhaps there is hope for your Expressway? (some day?)

I had to sit the UK driver's test in Aberdeen at age 32. I had had about 12 drive-on-the-left lessons for a few months beforehand. The most difficult thing during the road test, which is saying quite a lot, was that the sun was shining straight into my eyes at 2:45 pm on a February afternoon, so that I constantly had to put the visor up and down and try not to be blinded. I did pass on my first go, which many people in this country do not, and for this I was roundly applauded back at the office.

So I applaud you, all these years on, for having passed the test for your 2nd driver's license. Hooray for Kelly!

Kris said...

Chicago is laid out the same way as Detroit and I LOVED it there. Atlanta is SO confusing. I need GPS just about everywhere. And I know that expressway. Yuck. I feel the same way when I go up 85 - there has been perpetual construction around Greenville/Spartanburg basically the entire 20 years I have lived in the south.

Tim Dolin said...

Christine - I have heard that European driving tests are far more rigorous and driving on the opposite side would be a huge challenge. The first time I drove after spending a year in England, I stopped at a stop sign only to realize it was on the other side of the road.

Bless you, Kris, and all big city dwellers. When I whine about traffic jams in Augusta, it really is just whining.

The Gps (as long as it's up to date) is a glorious invention indeed.