The New York in which I live – topping out at middle class and descending – consists of paved pathways not-so-lovingly laid out in grid patterns. I live on an “avenue.” Others live on “streets.” If you’ve ascended to some strata above middle class – this isn’t universal, mind you – you might live on a “drive” or a “lane,” or in something called a “Mews.”
Drives and lanes aren’t designed in grid patterns because the people who can afford to live on a drive or a lane are expected to be able to find their way home without counting blocks. This, unfortunately, doesn’t hold true for most of the parts of New York in which I’ve lived. I often wonder how some of my neighbors manage to make it back from wherever it is they go every day. Most times, I wish they wouldn’t. My neighbors make too much noise, they smell, and they try, all too often, to trap me in their time vortexes when I’m in a hurry to do something.
When you live, as I do, deep in one of New York’s grid patterned working-class neighborhoods, and you’re situated somewhere decidedly non-commercial, intersections of streets and avenues are regulated by stop signs, as opposed to traffic lights. Some intersections require all cars, coming from all four directions, to stop. Others require only those cars using the relatively less trafficked of the two intersecting streets to stop.
I live about a hundred yards from an intersection requiring all four directions of traffic to stop. In theory, this is a very good system for regulating vehicular flow. It works, provided people choose to obey the law. In New York, however, people don’t obey the fucking law. Ever. They believe that whatever they’re doing is exponentially more important than what you’re doing, so they do what they want to do regardless of whether they’re permitted to or not.
In my neighborhood, stopping at stop signs is optional. People around here don’t even do the “California Roll” anymore. They don’t look and they don’t care, and when they see a stop sign ahead, all they want is to be the first to get through the intersection. This is because they’re very meaningful people who need to get back to their laboratories to find the cure for cancer. I’ve convinced myself of this in order to make them less irritating.
Today I pulled up to an intersection with a four-way stop. I looked in each direction, and to my right, I saw a young girl in a Lexus SUV who looked for all the world as though she intended to ignore the stop sign and barrel through the intersection at about fifty miles-per-hour. At the last possible moment, she slammed on her brakes and screeched to a stop. By the time she’d stopped moving, my car had been stopped for at least five seconds.
The only reason she didn’t blow the stop sign was because she saw me sitting there. This made her angry, and she disgustedly waved for me to proceed – granting me, in her magnanimity, the right to continue on my journey to the next stop sign, some eighty yards ahead.
I let her sit there and gesticulate at me for a few seconds, remaining motionless, then rolled down my driver-side window, stuck out my left arm and gave her the finger until she sped off. I even fired it up and down a few times for good measure.
She was wearing sunglasses, so I was unable to read her mind.