THOSE ‘OTHER’ MEMPHIS DRIVERS There’s something magical about a drive around our city. Choose a path in any direction, and you’re met with a dense and ever-shifting landscape that seems to meld past and present into a sometimes breathtaking hybrid creature. Restored or crumbling exteriors still bear the hand-painted insignias of eras past. Stark or demure gardens encircle the perimeters of houses that were built back when they really built houses. You see the eclectic and the eccentric holding hands downtown, where new growth blossoms in neon lights. Museums bump into galleries that neighbor arenas and clubs and people, alongside some forgotten streets where the soul of the city dances its dance quietly. The beauty of Memphis lies in its strange ability to be a city but still a town, where the word “metropolitan” can stand for something cohesive. Yet there’s one teensy little flaw. One in which we ourselves play a major role. Well… not you and me, but, you know, those other members of we. It’s the recreational sport/ safari adventure that is sometimes referred to as driving. On certain days and at certain times, the operation of vehicles on our city streets creates a level of chaos that is shocking. Though, again, this isn’t you or me causing such a ruckus. It’s those other drivers, obviously. But you’ve got to know what I’m talking about. To be fair, some of the blame must certainly be attributed to the roads themselves. Much like the local culture, the roadways of Memphis are laid out in the manner of a town. This, unfortunately, is nothing akin to quaint when you look at the results. There are people driving without their lights on, in the rain, at midnight, while on the telephone and watching the tiny televisions mounted to their dashboards. Onboard viewing selections normally include cartoons or porn. Seeming contests spring up in which motorists compete to top the all-time running of the red light record. Many an Olympic contender can be observed, sometimes from within inches, logging points as they race away from view. Cars weave like sine waves, vacillating from side-to-side across a yellow-lined axis. A very real and important axis, but one that may as well be as imaginary as the yellow-brick road. Pedestrians wander into the road at will, as if having forgotten that they can’t pass through a few-thousand pounds of metal unharmed, and then glare at you angrily as if you really should have been driving on the sidewalk anyway. I can’t count the number of times in the past few years when I’ve had to slam on my breaks to avoid the awkward introduction of some stranger to my bumper while traveling well within the posted speed limit. Besides, one would think that all of the road signs were written in an as yet undeciphered system of hieroglyphics; so speed limits are out the window anyway. As are most other signs. Those stating “one-way” are read as pick the direction of your choice. “Yield” seems to mean hurry, hurry, don’t waste a second. And “stop,” obviously, means you better go right this instant. Now. Before those other cars can even think about passing you. Go! Go! Go!


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