The Traffic Circle

If you are not from New England, please let me be the one to educate you about the anachronistic and utterly tragic concept of the traffic circle. If you are from New England, screw you because you probably already cut me off in a traffic circle at one point or another.

The traffic circle might have been a reasonably intuitive undertaking 200 years ago when most people in my neighborhood were driving palominos instead of minivans. The traffic circle is clearly the result of poor urban planning, where a bunch of roads came together in a surprisingly unorganized fashion and there was apparently no better solution than to create a massive dead end in the shape of a circle and let travelers figure out the details for themselves. It’s like a handy little Darwinian experiment. If only the founding fathers had invented the urban traffic grid instead of the Bill of Rights, we might not even be having this conversation.

A traffic circle is a racetrack-like section of road, which abruptly appears for no apparent reason but to merge several haphazardly arranged avenues together like spokes on the Wheel of Terror at the traveling carnival. Once you enter the circle, the object of the game is to escape unscathed. It is also convenient if you are able to exit heading in the right direction.  Entering and exiting the circle is like playing chicken at the Indy 500.

As far as I can tell, traffic circles exist for only two reasons. One, so the Geico Gecko has a target demographic to which he can market his wares, and two, so carpooling parents can teach their children useful swear words in an immediate and meaningful context.

The rules of the circle are simple and finite:

  • Vehicles already traveling in the circle have the right of way.
  • This explains why cars entering from the fringes of the circle generally never even hesitate for a moment before accelerating and practicing their “I can’t see you. Don’t even bother to honk your horn because I can’t hear you either. And, nope, I couldn’t even make out the blur of that finger you just raised in my direction because I just achieved Mach 3.” look. Whoosh-pop!

  • Vehicles should always enter the circle by turning right and then continue in a counter-clockwise direction. Ummm. Yes. I have seen cars enter the traffic circle by making a left turn and then, not realizing their error despite compelling and immediate evidence, continue to drive clockwise, upstream while all other vehicles frantically veer out of their path to save themselves.
  •  A traffic circle is a circle. This simple fact escapes most motorists, who generally will resort to any variety of desperate measures to leave the circle when they realize they are about to miss their planned exit. Generally drivers slam on the brakes, literally posing a life and death scenario to the drivers at cruising speed behind them. Another apparent option, which I witnessed in disbelief for the first time this week, is to courteously let drivers pass you until they are out of harms way, and then throw it into reverse and GO BACKWARDS to regain access to the exit you just passed. What these drivers do not realize, however, is that they are IN A CIRCLE. By definition, if they continue to GO FORWARD, they will shortly arrive again at the precise location they presently occupy. So everyone was absent on the day they taught circles in third grade. I consider it my duty as a good neighbor to roll down my window and scream, “It’s a circle, moron!” every time someone hits the brakes in the circle I pass through for my morning commute.
  •  To exit the circle, carefully approach the right lane, ignoring the countless drivers carelessly flinging their vehicles into your path while simultaneously talking on their cell phones without the aid of hands-free devices.

If  you have, against all odds, safely achieved entry into the circle, you generally have one of three unappealing options that may or may not include the benefit of survival:

  1. Stay in the circle until you approach the exit for your destination and then hope to be flung out by centrifugal force.
  2. Stay in the circle until you muster the nerve to cut someone off, and exit at any point, regardless of whether or not it points toward your destination.
  3. Stay in the circle for the rest of your life effectively cutting off all ties with anyone you ever knew who is not presently in the car with you.

There are five traffic circles within two miles of my house. They are an unfortunate trial I must endure every day. I was once the victim of a sideswipe while I was SITTING STILL at the entry point of a nearby circle. The other driver became so flustered, she threw it into reverse and sideswiped me again, going backwards, in case I missed it the first time. All while I was sitting perfectly still. Which seemed like the safest option at the time. But maybe next time I should just plunge  blindly into the vortex with the rest of them. Or just invest in a palomino.

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Riddle Me This #5

Was everybody absent the day they taught contractions in second grade? Please explain to me the universal mayhem and panic that ensues when a typical adult is forced to choose between using their, there, or they’re in a written message. You might be able to explain away your confusion when choosing between there and their. Though if you’ve read Green Eggs and Ham, you’ve got no excuse as Dr. Seuss has provided you with the world’s best and most memorable primer for how and when to use there under a variety of unlikely, yet sweetly weird, circumstances.

But here’s what I really don’t get. What is the ambivalence about when they’re comes into play? They’re = they are. That’s it. It’s two words shortened into one. With an apostrophe. Whose sole purpose is to remind you that you are about to write two words abbreviated into one. It’s a gimme. Use it when you mean to say they are. As in they’re about to choose the wrong version of there. Or they’re about to prove why adult Americans are generally perceived to be kind of ignorant and limited in our written and expressive language. I just made that up. But it’s probably true.

Same thing for your and you’re. As in get your contractions right people! Or you’re going to be embarrassed by your inability to successfully pass your efforts at forging your child’s college application essays off as something your child wrote. Because he knows the difference between your and you’re.  Because he went to second grade.

Now, as I am clearly the undisputed Queen of the run-on sentence and overuse-of-commas-and-hyphens-for-comic-conversational-effect, please forgive me the occasional grammatical improvisation for creative purposes. And I generally don’t know what I’m talking about, so there’s that. I really have no idea how and when to use lie or lay. So the lines are open and I’m taking calls on how to choose between those two without admitting you’re (your?) an idiot. And if you’ve ever mixed up we’ve and weave, I can’t even talk to you about that.

They’re*, I said it. Now your* ready to write with confidence. I think I’ll go lay* down.

*Wrong, wrong and wrong. I think.

I Appreciate Your Disinterest in My Life’s Work

I just read a hilarious post entitled Teacher Depreciation Day by peachyteachy at

http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/teacher-depreciation-day/

and I was reminded that today was Teacher Appreciation Day. I don’t think anyone in my school knew that except maybe for the first year teachers. I only knew because I got a lot of emails this week from Lakeshore Learning offering me free shipping on any and all overpriced Groundhog Day curriculum packs, talking globes (bilingual ones) and dice with roman numerals on them. Free shipping, huh? Nice.

I was not feeling sorry for myself, but was ever so  slightly disgusted at the extra effort kids put into making my day extra unspecial today.

Today one of our students unabashedly drew directly onto a table, not accidentally, but in a concentrated effort to produce a complete representational picture, mind you. When I stopped her and asked her why she was drawing on the table she answered, in a typical non sequitur, “It’s pretty.” And then started in to finish her work until I removed her pencil from her feisty little grip. Later, the same student, instead of rolling her dice and collecting colored chips in the “roll for 15” game, put down her pencil (finally) and placed the counting chips on her eyes, twice entering a state of near hysterics, before the threat of a conversation with the principal elicited an insincere apology. And another grab at that forbidden pencil.

The many misdemeanors and transgressions enacted in our classroom today are too complicated and unsavory to list in their entirety. Suffice it to say, I am a woman of great patience and fortitude and might consider a career move to the DMV where they really know how to have a good time at the expense of others.

I’m not saying the day was a total loss. When I went to wipe down the tables at the end of the day, I found this:

Now that’s raw talent.

Riddle Me This #4

When one is motivated to blog on a semi-regular schedule, some parenting duties may fall to the wayside. Laundry, grocery shopping, pet care, making occasional eye contact while your sweet offspring are trying to share their innermost feelings and concerns with you. You know, the small things.

So as the TV program switched over from Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness to Spongebob Squarepants without my knowledge or consent and my three children sat transfixed while eating a dinner of macaroni and cheese and some lettuce, Mr. Snark entered the room and posed the following query, henceforth known as riddle #4:

“What is the opposite of helicopter parenting?”

Answered provided by middle child, MelloYello:

“Submarine parenting.”

You just can’t please some people.

Glub, glub.

Just Wait Until You Have Kids of Your Own

It is a commonly known fact that your kids will always be more polite, obedient and just plain nice when dealing with complete strangers than they will be with you. They will engage in casual banter with the UPS man and regale the McDonalds cashier with a humdinger about how they lost a tooth last Thursday and the tooth fairy forgot to leave a dollar under their pillow. When you ask them a simple question or make a small request, there is eye rolling, stomping, whining, and finger pointing followed by a series of false accusations, an angry swearing of a loathsome pox upon you and a finale of door slamming.

When you’re a teacher, the kids in your class can go either way with their allegiance and/or willingness to comply. At the beginning of the year, when their teacher is a stranger to them, they smile brightly, listen intently and put on a good show. There is a honeymoon type love-fest of cooperation and a desire to please. The students are bright-eyed sponges, willing to take pretty much anything you say at face value. Sure, they say, I’ll sign that class contract agreeing that I will always try my best and have an excellent sense of personal space and a sweet disposition. At about week two or three, you get a sense of who’s going to test the dark and murky waters down in the deep end of the pond. And they do. Put on your life jacket and flippers.  It’s a necessary evil of going to kindergarten. They test limits. They try patience. It’s in their job description. You are now a familiar, trusted adult. And they know they can try their best to make you very sorry you ever thought this teaching gig might be a good idea, but that you will love them and take care of them no matter what.

My kids, like (most of) yours, are great kids. We get plenty of positive feedback from acquaintances, peers’ parents, coaches, and elderly strangers in restaurants who say “Your kids are so well behaved.” But that last one was a long time coming. So I know this “evil twin” phenomenon holds true in our little family. But what of everyone else’s?

Last weekend there was a spectacular outdoor event at my kids’ school. It was a “Go Green” community-building extravaganza complete with all the kid friendly bells and whistles. I volunteered to work behind one of the many crafts tables, helping small children plant marigold seeds in little plastic flower pots. Between me and the two other moms facilitating this activity, we assisted hundreds of little gardeners as they followed the multi-step directions to put together the necessary elements of about 400 marigold plants. This is what I do on my day off from teaching.

Without exception, every child who came up to our table was polite, attentive, and able to interact with us (strangers to most of them) respectfully and appropriately. No one sprayed her brother with the water spray bottle. No one complained that they didn’t get enough fertilizer in their cup. They accepted help when necessary and followed steps independently when encouraged to do so. Everyone said thank you. And then they all went home and screeched like spider monkeys, threw themselves on the floor, and demanded pizza for dinner from their exhausted parents.

So it is clear to me now that everything my mom warned me about will eventually come to pass. Mom always said, “Don’t stand downwind from 200 pounds of pulverized potting soil on a gusty day unless you want to be the victim of sudden onset emphysema, AND just wait until you have kids of your own who act just like you did when you were their age.” Which is just a terrible thing to say. Because I was a real pain in the ass.

Riddle Me This #3

Does everyone think Alex Trebek is cool and I just don’t get it OR does Alex Trebek think he’s cool and he’s the only one who doesn’t get it? And what is the letter O doing in the middle of the word JEOPARDY anyway? It’s kind of unnecessary. Like your appendix. Or the Nordic Track in my basement that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

You must answer in the form of a question.

And for a gratuitous thrill, here is my first shot at posting an image!!

Al, back in the days before he cultivated his uptight-condescending-French-tutor image. Clearly, he is quite cool and I just have to get over it. Nice contrasting rust tie, by the way.

Now, that wasn’t so hard! Let’s try another one…

Vintage Nordic Track for sale. Mint Condition. $19.95! Or best offer. Or free. Skis included.