Friday, April 3, 2009

Apparently looks aren't everything

Miami, you may be voted the most attractive city in the U.S. (for those of you who still consider Miami the U.S.), but of all the places I've lived, I'm voting you home of the worst drivers, pedestrians, and homeless-shopping-cart-pushers-in-the-middle-of-the-road-(um?)-ers. Utah drivers? Distracted, perhaps. Milwaukee? Nothing notable. Granny cars maybe (hee hee, Melanie). New York? Crazy, yes. But good. Ryan idolizes the taxi drivers there. Every driving experience in New York City was like a challenge for him to drive up to par with the cabbies there. He thinks they have excellent perception of their vehicle and it's boundaries (their bumpers tell me a little otherwise, but whatever). I personally, think driving in NYC can be done like a civilized human being, but I will admit I gained a lot of skills driving in NY. Merging into a space that has just enough room for your car without stopping the flow of traffic. Being willing to parallel park in a space that no one else has dared try. I chalk it all up to the Big Apple. But Miami? Your road-sense is pretty much nil.

First of all let's talk about the pedestrians. If you've lived in a foreign country, you might be familiar with the technique of walking across a multi-lane road whenever there is an opening - even if it was only one lane or one direction that had the opening. Then you just stop and wait for another opening. It drives me nuts. It's a complete norm here. (I think I tried it once out of habit in Utah after living in South Africa - totally stopped traffic in all directions and looked like an idiot. So it should be.) But here, you drive up a busy busy road, someone starts crossing the road and stops on one of the lines dividing the 4 lanes of traffic and just waits while all these cars are whizzing by. WHY? Why must you do that?? Why can't you wait the extra 30 seconds, walk 5 extra feet, and just wait at the crosswalk like an organized and civil society dictates? Because it doesn't always work either. People don't always pay attention very well, teenagers get used to doing it and are ditzy and distracted, cars come out of nowhere and inevitably, someone has to hurry and run not to get hit, cars have to stop, and often your party gets split up at various intervals across the road based on your stupidity/audacity. And what makes me even more mad is that moms with little kids do it and just sit in the middle of the road waiting along dotted lines, waiting for openings in traffic with like three little kids tagging along. Stupid.

Then there's the driving. Sort of a similar idea. You want to cross that busy road and you're on a side street. So you just start pulling out. Slowly. Slowly. Maybe once there was a slight opening, but probably not anymore, and you're going slow enough that the cars coming realize this and are forced to stop. So you get two lanes of traffic stopped. Not because they are being polite and letting you across, but because your freaking car is stopped, parallel in front of them, giving that direction of traffic no choice. The opposing side, however, is not blocked by you yet, and is probably thinking - look at that idiot blocking those two lanes of traffic. I'm not stopping my car for such a dummy. So you wait, effectively backing up the two lanes of traffic, until there is finally an opening (or at least half an opening), and you mosey across the rest of the road. Tell me you can do this without looking like an idiot and being called names by at least 15 different vehicles. Maybe. Maybe if you're another person who does this frequently and thinks is a good idea.

Then there's the homeless people. I know I'm going to sound insensitive, but, well, oh well. They seem to feel a great sense of entitlement here. Like, entitled to an entire lane of traffic so they can push their shopping cart. My favorite was one of them waiting with their shopping cart at a light in a left-turn lane. Because they're probably going to make it through that light before the oncoming signal turns green? Because they're just daring you to hit them because they're homeless? Because they want to sue you so they can make some money? Or because they sincerely just think shopping carts count as vehicles?

And while I'm on my rant about homeless people, can I just ask what is up with the Homeless Voice? I think they have some Homeless Voice newspaper and they stand on the street and collect money. Maybe you're supposed get a newspaper for giving them money. If you want it. About homeless people? I'm not sure. But I've actually never seen them holding one newspaper, just containers. They all wear orange police vests with the "Homeless Voice" printed on it. They look organized. And they're weaving in and out of cars holding out their jars asking for money. But the thing that gets you is they're always very smiley and wave at you, and look like they might possibly even ask how your children are doing, which of course makes you feel like even more of a jerk. But they're everywhere. All the time. Multitudes of them. Which always makes me feel weird. Like if you have that much man-power, why don't you have a car wash or something? But somehow because it's organized begging it's more noble? I would so much rather pay you $10 to have a car wash than finally give up and give you $1 for approaching my car 37 times that week. I guess I just have a distaste for begging. Maybe it's all the times I gave money in South Africa only to drive by 20 minutes later and see them sniffing glue. Or seeing parents sending their kids out to beg and then herding them in to collect the spoils. Or maybe it's because I saw a guy here last week with a sign that said, "Why lie? I need beer." I don't know. But I really am charitable. I give money to our church, and if you know how on-the-scene the LDS church is in every disaster, and how much we try to take care of those in need, you'll know it goes to good use.

Anyway, in the meantime, can you just push your shopping carts off to the side of the road? Or on the sidewalk? And I'll make sure I keep watching out for the neighborhood homeless rollerblader. And wondering why he's always rollerblading down the street carrying a tv, a stereo, or some other large piece of electronic equipment.


Tennille said...

Ha! Thanks for telling it like it is. And I love that homeless man's sign. Kudos to him for at least being honest about what he's going to do with the money. :)

Anonymous said...

I wondered about all those people at the red lights with orange vests who cruise down the rows of cars waiting for a green light. Seems like there ought to be a city ordinance.

One of the strange quirks here in Utah now is that people are buying lots in regular middle class neighborhoods and building gargantuan homes that far outstrip the neighborhood (in fact, they overlook all the little peons, they are so big).

Some cities are quickly passing ordinances against that kind of aesthetic eyesore, making regulations on the size of new homes in certain neighborhoods.

Another problem is gigantic homes on the hillsides, without proper drainage and percentage of slopes, who then suffer sliding, etc. And I always appreciated the past limit of no homes over 5,200 feet (the level of old Lake Bonneville). That must have been voted out as a restriction, because they are plopping their homes on tops of every crest!

Each place has its strangeness, I guess, but I would vote against the orange vests. It reminds me too much of other places, where you sometimes even worry about them approaching your car.


The Freemans said...

Hilarious!!! So us Utah drivers aren't so bad huh?!!!

The Sams said...

Jen, you should write a book. Seriously! So funny.

Jess said...

I think the drivers are getting worse in Milwaukee, but they are definetly not as bad as you are describing in Miami.

SuburbiaMom said...

Oh, so hard with all the homeless. They do like those cities that stay warm, though! We almost hit a homeless dude in CA because he was LAYING in the street!

Ty and Trista Swartzlander said...

Hi Jen, So good to be back home. People in CA were such good drivers. We get back to Miami and Ty and I say welcome home as we see people flying by us like we are standing still. Missed you too.

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