What I Learned in the Car

Let me just say it: driving in Boston is a little scary.  It’s not that people in Boston are bad drivers, because they’re actually pretty good drivers.  It’s the traffic, which is miserable, and the fact that it’s impossible to figure out things like right-of-way laws.  Best I can figure, the way right-of-way works in Boston is that whoever gets to any given spot on the road first has the right-of-way.  So, if a car pulls out in front of you, it has the right of way because it’s there first.

I should say that I don’t have any idea what the actual laws are.  But when you drive there, you have to be totally alert, fully aware of your surroundings at all times.  You don’t think about other things while you’re driving, you watch for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists, with your full attention.

It’s a little intimidating at first, not only because people are pulling out in front of you all the time, but also because you have to pull out in front of other people if you don’t want to wait at the corner until you starve to death or die of hypothermia.  At first, it’s hard to pull out in front of other cars partially because it’s scary, but especially because it’s so rude to do it in Texas, and Bostonians are a lot more uninhibited about communicating with their horns than Texans are.

But what I figured out was that it’s not rude to pull out in front of people in Boston.  In fact, it’s expected.  People will slow down let you pull out in front of them.  It’s just the way it works.  The secret to not getting honked at is to commit to it and just go.  They don’t appreciate timid drivers.  But you can expect that other drivers are watching what you’re doing and will hit the brakes if you start coming out.  That’s certainly not true here in Abilene–I would never pull out in front of someone here because they may not be paying attention to me.  In Boston, you can count on other drivers to be aware of you and there’s a sort of etiquette to driving that I hadn’t expected to find there.

So what I learned is that what most visitors and new comers may think of as bad driving may really just be a difference in road etiquette.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it less scary for a small-town Texan.  But I’m getting the hang of it.

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