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An Open Letter to Tennessee Motorists

I really am going to try to post stuff regularly from now on.

Anyway, last weekend I went to visit Yuri at Chapel Hill, which is amazing. If they had an engineering program it would be paradise. I’m hoping that’s why I’ve been so tired all week. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning, but I can’t get to sleep either. Then again, that isn’t anything new.

One thing that is new is Southern drivers. You see, I’ve been riding my bike into work two or three days a week. It’s a fairly level nine miles each way, so it does more for my well-being mentally than physically, but it’s fun nonetheless. The not so fun part comes into play on Bethel Valley Road, a straight six-mile shot down a crumbling two-lane strip of asphalt with a posted 55 MPH speed limit and no shoulder. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as having a pickup’s rearview mirror shred the air six inches from your left elbow, let me tell you. There are no blind curves on Bethel Valley Road; no potholes; no oncoming traffic since the only place it goes is ORNL and it’s therefore essentially one-way during rush hour(s).

The problem, then, is this: people will not yield the right lane. Fully half of the drivers who pass me won’t move their vehicles one inch to the left, presumably unless they were lured there by all-you-can-eat barbecue or their cousin in a bikini. At first I chalked this up to long-standing Southern tradition: these people’s great-great-grandfathers fought for the right lane in the War of Northern Aggression and they’ve occupied it ever since.

Driving to Chapel Hill, however, I noticed another strange and seemingly contradictory phenomenon: people also refuse to yield the left lane. They seem perfectly content to cruise along at 65 in a 70 zone, watching the traffic zip by in the right lane. In ten hours of driving I think I passed literally a thousand people on the right. This was astonishing to me; Yankees may not always yield the left lane, but they universally understand that they should, and if you follow them long enough by and large they’ll get the idea and merge right. Southerners, I hypothesized, were somehow uninformed with regard to this courtesy.

It was then that I noticed the signs posted periodically: SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT. There were only two explanations I could come up with in light of this new evidence:

1. Southerners can’t read.
2. Southerners are too lazy to change lanes.

(1) and (2) are not mutually exclusive, of course, and could interact to varying degrees in each individual driver. Given that the signs on Bethel Valley Road warning of cyclists feature a drawing of a bike rather than any lettering, though, I’m inclined to suspect that it’s mostly (2), and that the effort required to rotate one’s steering wheel a few degrees in one direction, then the other, is more than can be summoned while in the insulin coma that occurs after several hours without sweet tea.

Also, Tennessee DOT: What the fuck is up with “rolling roadblocks”?!

Sean out.

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