speed limit 35.

I’m not sure how or when Leigh and I met through blog-land in the last year and, quite frankly, it doesn’t even matter to me now. I don’t remember life before Leigh and can’t imagine life without her now.

One thing I especially love about Leigh is her smart humor. She is hysterical! (You must read her account of our first in-person conversation. It will be no surprise to you at all that we are friends.) Additionally, she has a real peaceful spirit, which I also love because mine is more…como se dice…frenetic? Neurotic?

After finally spending a weekend together helping Kim with her youth’s worship retreat, it was only made all the more clear that we are meant to be friends forever.

You know, kinda like you and me. 

You’ve seen her before, and you’ll see her again. Ladies and gentlemen, my friend Leigh.

* * * * * * * * * *

I am, shall we say, an aggressive driver.

My parents are steady, go-the-speed-limit drivers but I have been influenced by Chicago and its suburbs. If you’ve ever driven there, you know it can be heaven or hell.

When the light turns green, you go as fast as you can because you don’t know how long it’ll last. Not making that light could extend your commute by many, many minutes, which will be good for no one. There are too many factors that go into the zaniness of Chicago traffic- short lights, accidents, semi trucks purposely going under the speed limit to piss people off- but this maxim endures: to survive, you must go, go, go.

If you’re on the highway, you of course stay an appropriate distance behind the car in front of you. The only time this will change is if you’re feeling particularly kind-hearted when the car next to you suddenly needs to get into your lane. I typically allow this because I want good driving karma to continue. You never know when you’re going to need to cut across 3 lanes of traffic to get to your exit. But if you have your turn signal on and don’t quickly take the opportunity I’m giving you, then tough luck. We must all keep up with the flow or the next traffic jam could be our fault.

No one wants to be blamed for a traffic jam. Unless you are the type of person who enjoys having a highway full of people cursing your name.

Thankfully, this has never happened to me.

Let me be clear. I’m not that jerk cutting people off left and right and going 100 mph.  Nosirree.  I once heard that cops won’t pull you over if you’re going 7 mph over the speed limit. This has been my guide, though really it’s more like 5 over to be on the safe side. That is, if I’m going above the speed limit at all. Which, to keep up with the flow of traffic, sometimes you need to do.

I’m just saying.

While I confess there were some college trips back and forth on I-88 that were magically short, I no longer feel comfortable driving at such fast speeds. I want to quickly get where I’m going but I prefer to arrive in one piece.

It’s been a good driving existence, to say the least.  And then I moved to Nashville where it appears the population is significantly less vehicularly aggressive.

On any given day, on any given route, the cars surrounding me go 5 to 10 under the speed limit. Under.the.speed.limit.  Other than when the White Sox play (and hopefully beat) the Cubs, few things raise my blood pressure faster than an uncommonly slow driver.  I’m not asking them to go as fast as me.  I am asking that they at least go the speed limit. Crazy, right?

Then there’s the space between vehicles. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most drivers keep 3 football fields between them and the next car, and yes, they’re going under the speed limit. This is when my sanity begins to fray. For the love of God, why, I want to not so gently ask them. Are you comfortable being the reason why traffic is backed up 5 miles?

It gets worse. Let’s say we’re at a stoplight in the turn lane. The light turns green. One would assume that meant go. Instead, the cars will amble through the intersection with the grace and speed of a synchronized swimmer. I cannot admire the beauty of this move. I’m too busy yelling because now the green arrow is gone and I’m still stuck at the light. A turtle walks faster than Tenneseans turning left.

Don’t even get me started on precipitation. If a rain drop appears, drivers instantly slow down. And if it snows, you might as well forget about getting home. My 7 minute commute turned into 50 minutes over 2 lousy inches of snow. The kind of snow Chicagoans laugh at  will shut down the city here. Streets turn into parking lots as Tennesseans question the fate of mankind and I question their ability to operate heavy equipment.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but my fellow Midwestern transplants agree with me. Cars move slower in the South. I love living here so perhaps one day I’ll enjoy this different pace.

In the meantime, I will dream of one day owning Inspector Gadget’s car, which will allow me to move your slow arse out of the way.

In May 2010 Leigh intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. Formerly a pediatric social worker, she writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. Rest assured, Leigh has no self-control problems when it comes to fried pickles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HopefulLeigh and her blog: http://www.leighkramer.com/

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kfsullivan
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 01:44:08

    Aggressive, huh? I never got to ride with you when you came to B’ham. We will have to drive about a bit when we next get together. Did you know that I lost my license for racing when I was in high school?

    My town is not a particularly fast moving ( anyway you slice it) city either and not at all so compared to, say, HOTLANTA, where I learned to drive in traffic and which you may find more to your liking. Everyone there travels at least 15-25 miles over the speed limit. Fast cars regularly go 90+, MK. ( smile.)

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:30:01

      I can’t believe you lost your license for racing! I will need to hear this story soon. I’ve heard bad things about Atlanta traffic but if they’re more at my pace, then I’m down:)

  2. Tay
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 01:58:38

    Hey Leigh! Thanks for sharing here today.

    I am a new driver, so I can drive pretty sloowwww. And sometimes fast drivers scare me. :)

  3. themadrecadre
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 02:21:25

    Hi, Leigh! MK and I have only known each other face-to-face for about 5 days total of our lives, and that was 7 years ago, but I love her and thank her for inviting you to write here. First of all, I lived in Nashvegas for nearly 9 years, and I feared for my life every time I got on the road! A friend of mine from NYC actually named her company MERGE LEFT based on her experience with the whack job drivers there. Be vigilant. My other favorite driving-related thing about Nashville is how every street has, like, 3 names, some involving letters, some involving numbers. It made me in.sane. Have a great day, and go eat at Monell’s!

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:32:33

      Thank you for feeling my pain! The changing street name thing drives me nuts! I still don’t understand how the highways work either. Nashville just doesn’t make sense in my mind but I hope I’ll get the hang of it soon. I haven’t been to Monell’s yet but Southern Bred is one of my favorite meat and threes.

  4. Melissa
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 08:42:22

    All I’m gonna say is I’m glad I don’t have to drive in Korea. I think I would kill someone. But as a pedestrian I follow these rules: Buses always win. Taxis are always the ones driving the fastest. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean a motorbike won’t take you out.

    I liked living in South Dakota where the speed limit on the interstate was 75. Didn’t really need to speed.

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:34:01

      I can’t imagine driving in Korea! Other countries have crazy rules. Your assessment of buses, taxis, and motorbikes reminds me of my time in Thailand.

      I’ve never had an opinion about South Dakota before but I do love that speed limit!

  5. dougy
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 10:54:23

    I agree with Melissa. Driving is Korea is insane and that’s why I loved the subway system when I loved there. Another place that is insane for driving is Kenya, especially in the capital of Nairobi. The buses rule the road, the sidewalks (or lack thereof) and anywhere there is an opening.

    I am from a small somewhat rural part of the country, but have been able to drive safely and comfortably in Toronto and Montreal, Detroit and Boston. I’ve had more accidents in the “routine” driving of small city/rural driving than in the big city. But that’s because I treated it as routine, not the complex task it is.

    And drivers that drive under the limit annoy me. You’re right, Leigh. “I am asking that they at least go the speed limit” is a statement I have spoken and will probably speak again. Sundays are the worst. but I try to keep that in perspective because it’s Sunday.

    but I have slowed down as I got older. Paying speeding fines were not my idea of a good time. Fixing my car after an accident is not my idea of good allocation of my resources. So I have taken to living by and abiding in the posted speed limit.

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:36:02

      Just how many accidents have you been in, Dougy? :) I’m totally convicted about my wannabe road rage on Sundays. I mean, of all days to extend grace, right?

      You may be surprised to learn that I have never received a speeding ticket. This only reinforces my notion that “5 over” isn’t that big of a deal. To my parents’ chagrin.

      • douglas
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:18:41

        since i got my licence at 16, I have 3 cars written off due to accidents. 2 smashed beyond repair, the third was driven for a while afterwards until we found the damage in the wheel well. and my share of speeding tickets, all before 25. I lived the stereotype the under-25 male. but since 25, only one a-fault accident and it was minor, surface damage.

  6. Carmen
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:16:47

    Hi Leigh! Love your blog! So glad your guest posting here…and we add another thing to the list of reasons why I’m glad I don’t drive! :)

  7. hopefulleigh
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:38:32

    Thank you for having me here, Mary Kathryn! We are definitely forever friends and I can’t imagine my life without you!

  8. Jason
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:52:50

    I keep dreaming of the day I get a rocket launcher installed to blow some of these drivers off the road. I once followed a guy going 25 in a 55. When I passed him at the first passing zone, he GAVE ME THE FINGER. He’s 30 mph UNDER the limit and he flipped ME off.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 17:53:01

      now, that? is hilarious, jason. i think you could makes lots and lots of money making those. hey, haven’t been to msy in the last few years but was REALLY excited for what was happening for you with the newspaper-thing and all. will go get caught up. xo

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 12:05:39

      That cracks me up! I can’t believe you got flipped off for their ineptitude. Kind of like the guy that honked at me yesterday when I was turning left at a stop sign when it was blatantly my turn to go.

  9. Catherine
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 19:48:07

    Ha! Leigh, we need to meet, methinks. I am a born and bred southerner who (really) learned to drive during my three years in Miami in grad school…it is a miracle I never got a ticket when I moved back.

    By the way, 18 Seaboard in Raleigh does a mean friede picle with buttermilk ranch sauce. Just sayin’.

  10. Junice
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 23:07:23

    Leigh, this is hilarious! I grew up in rural Michigan, with drivers much like the aforementioned Tenneseans so believe you me that moving to the Chitown suburbs was a not-so-gentle shock to my system. However, I have often contemplated (usually when stuck behind one of the semis going 5 mph under to piss people (me) off) in the last three years the speed with which I have adjusted to and accept Chicago driving. And now, when I find myself once again in rural Michigan, I am one of *those* people with an Illinois license plate (the people we love to hate in southwest Michigan) politely tailgating the person in front of me to remind them that the speed limit is 55, not 35.

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 12:08:22

      Oh, Junice, I heart you! It’s impressive that you became the kind of driver/person you/your state loves to hate. No one can resist Chicago’s ways for long! This reminds me that one of these times I’m in town, we’re going to need to hang out.

      • Junice
        Jul 06, 2011 @ 17:21:54

        um. hangout? yes please:) we can discuss the intricacies and nuances of mary murphy’s (artificially?) smiling face in contrast to her look of shock/surprise…which, oddly enough, look very similar…

  11. reconciling viewpoints
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 23:10:23

    My transition was sort of like yours, Leigh. Grew up in So Cal, transplanted to Oregon. The drivers here are definitely slower than California, though not as slow as what you describe in Nashville.
    The thing that drives me nuts the most here isn’t taking off when the light turns green (though the Oregonians are bad at that), but it’s merging into traffic getting on the freeway. These guys just don’t get it — you HAVE TO accelerate, not slow down and look. Oy!
    Every year, we drive back down to LA to visit family over Christmas, and every year my driving habits change for two weeks and have to adjust back later. In Oregon, the rule of thumb is that same “7 mph over the limit” that you mentioned. In California, the rule of thumb is that you drive as fast as the traffic lets you. Most of the time, the traffic sucks so you aren’t speeding, but if the traffic is wide open, everyone will be going 80, and I’m not really exaggerating.

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 12:10:12

      Interesting that you have to readjust your driving style when you go back. I’ve heard horror stories about LA traffic so I can’t even imagine. I agree that most people need lessons on how to merge, no matter which state you’re from. Thanks for sharing!

  12. kristinherdy
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 12:01:04

    I’m constantly made fun of for driving slow, even by Southern Standards. I cant help it… I’m cautious for my children, who are usually in the car with me. I’d prefer to have a driver, personally.

    • hopefulleigh
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 12:11:09

      Children as passengers are a total trump card. I definitely go the speed limit when I have a kiddo in my car. And since I drove all over God’s creation when I worked for hospice, I’d prefer a chauffeur myself!

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