I should start this by admitting that I’m probably as rude a driver as anyone. I do mean to be polite and patient, but I can be distracted and unobservant sometimes. But I also think the stereotype about rude Utah drivers (other than myself) has some truth to it. Sometime I wonder if it comes from people being used to having lots of space, so as the population’s grown and people have had to share space, they don’t know how to go about it. Or it’s just cultural; my Mom grew up in Washington State and she says drivers (and sales clerks, and people in general) are just more polite there, and on my visits there, that’s seemed true to me. I tend to think drivers’ rudeness in Utah is usually more from bad habits than from malice; people just haven’t ever learned there’s a better way to do things. (At least, that’s what I think when I’m not blinded by road rage.)
A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from Stake Conference. Stake Conference is a church meeting where several LDS congregations meet together, which in our densely-LDS town means most of our neighbors are going the same place as us at the same time. After listening to wonderful, inspired talks on Gospel living and true discipleship of Jesus Christ, I drove home by an alternate route from the prevailing traffic. (I’d been late to the conference and Dean had gone ahead with the kids, so he was in the van and I’d taken his car.) I found myself at an unmarked intersection trying to make a left turn. About twelve of my fellow Christians passed by without letting me in or even glancing my way, until I managed to find a natural break in the traffic. I guess they were just really absorbed thinking about the wonderful talks they’d just heard. And I think any one of them would give me the shirt off his or her back if I were in need–but that’s somehow different from noticing that I could use a space in the flow of traffic.
Trying to use the carpool lane at my kids’ elementary school has always vexed me. There’s a right lane with a red curb for drop-off and pick up, and a left lane that’s meant to be a through lane. I’ve constantly seen people stop in the through lane, double-park in the drop-off lane, park far enough away from another car as to take up maximum space without leaving space for another driver to park between them, and park in the crosswalk. Then, one day a few weeks ago, the drop-off lane was full of parked cars with no drivers in them. I was baffled until I remembered it was Grandparents’ visiting day at the school. My next thought was, “And these are the parents of the people I usually have to interact with in the carpool lane–the ones who taught them to drive.”
Then, last night I was at crowded Costco and drove to the very far end of a row of parking spaces before I found the one remaining space, but just as I was about to pull into it, another car pulled into it from the other side. I thought, “Well, I’ll just have to go around,” and was about to, when the car’s driver, seeing my plight, backed up to park in the empty space on the other side of the row, leaving me the space I’d wanted. I thought, “Hey, I found a polite Utah driver!” I glanced at the car’s license plate–and saw that it was from Washington State.