Robert Johnson sang some wicked blues tunes about the crossroads in life. I don’t know if that’s where we meet Mr. Devil-man, but I think it’s where we can learn about ourselves.
I don’t mean Robert Frost’s “road not taken.” I envision that to be more a “Y” intersection, like the one at the bottom of Wyatt, where you veer left and find yourself traveling the south shore of Eagle Harbor. Or you veer right toward Blakely Harbor. You may catch a glimpse of that lovely Rich Passage view along the way.
We’re lucky to live on an island where eventually all roads lead – if you’re willing to bushwhack – to the sea.
I had an out-of-town client once who only wanted to look at waterfront properties. After looking at a place off Sunrise Drive we headed due west. “Wait,” she said approaching panic mode, “Will there be water on that side of the island?”
I digress. When I think of crossroads, I think of good-old-fashioned, right-angled ones. I don’t mean roundabouts where you can hesitate before you join the circus, and then go around in indecision until you run out of gas.
I mean four-way stops where you have to declare yourself as someone who is headed on the straight path with determination, or where you signal your intention to make a sharp turn one way or another.
When I was a young woman we drove from New Haven to Washington, D.C., to witness Nixon’s second inauguration, not because we were his supporters – quite the opposite. We were young and heartsick at his re-election, but we were also Westerners living briefly on the East Coast, so why not?
We got lost somewhere in Delaware, so we stopped to ask directions of a man standing on a dark street corner. Here’s what he said: “Go down this road apiece, and don’t take no rights nor lefts.”
Little did we know the rights and lefts our country and our lives would take from that moment on. (Lately I feel like we’ve been driving the famous Lombard Street, full of twisting, dizzying turns and curves, while going straight downhill.)
Allow me a U-turn back to the subject of intersections. Because of where I live and work, I find myself driving through the four-way stop of Wyatt and Madison several times a day. May I say, as a true expert of what goes on there, this is not Bainbridge Island at its finest hour.
We seem confused at the nature of the beast. Do we take turns? If so, how many turns? Who goes first? Who’s on second?
One day I made a right turn just ahead of someone making a left turn, because I knew I could do it safely. The driver making the left turn jumped on the gas, almost hit me, leaned on the horn and shook her fist at me. I guess I “line-butted.” Sorry.
The next morning I was determined not to offend. I sat and waited for someone else to volunteer to go. Two drivers shook their fists at me for being slow to move.
I saw in the Police Blotter that someone actually chased down a driver they thought had offended, and threatened violence. Maybe that’s why yesterday, at the same stop, no one moved. At all. We sat there, four divers looking sheepishly from one to another, immobilized. When I finally decided to go, two others hit the gas at the same time. It was chaos.
I wish I were a pundit with my own TV show (with this election I’ve become an expert on them, too.) If I were a mouthy pundit instead of a mild-mannered Review columnist who wants to stand in the grocery line unmolested, here’s what I’d say:
“Good grief, people, just drive, already!” I’d call us a bunch of whack jobs if I didn’t live here, if I could blog in the anonymity of cyberspace.
I’ve been resisting my natural urge to be didactic, but I resist no more. To begin, may I suggest we Islanders hold dear the values of courtesy, safety and efficiency when we drive?
Ergo, let’s try this at that one intersection, Wyatt and Madison. First, let’s stop thinking of it as a four-way stop. Let’s remember it is a two-way go.
I declare that it would be safe, kind and efficient for two drivers going in opposite directions to enter the intersection at the same time, each on his or her side of the road. If you’re going to make a left turn, just pull on out, and when it’s clear, turn.
I declare we don’t have to take four turns. Let’s try two. The first car at the intersection gets to go first, but so does the opposite car traveling the same street regardless of when it got there. First Madison, and then Wyatt, for example.
Now for a mind-blowing suggestion. All four drivers could make right turns at the same time. It’s true. I drew it out on paper. Try it. It would be beautiful, like synchronized swimming without the nose plugs. It could happen.
I’ve said my piece. If you disagree, I drive a big red pickup truck with McCain stickers and an NRA decal in the window. You’ll see me around.
Eve Leonard is an island writer and real estate agent.