3.16.2023 – driving in the dark

driving in the dark
no slow down
through the circles
all the lights are green

Sure I drove in Atlanta traffic on a daily basis for years.

I learned to cope.

I did not learn to like it.

I didn’t like traffic then.

I don’t like traffic now.

On the grand scheme, there is not a lot of traffic where I live and work now but there are some odd factors that impact traffic.

One thing is the only one way to work and that way is a bridge.

A four lane – two lanes in either direction – soon to be condemned bridge.

Not that Atlanta had any alternate routes that worked either but they did have lots of lanes.

Another thing is that anyone who needs to be at work in the area where I work, has to be at work at the same time.

Everyone using the same bridge at the same time creates traffic.

Frustrating traffic.

To add to the frustration, there are two traffic circles on my route to work.

So I have been leaving earlier.

Then the time changed.

And leaving early put me in the dark.

But it was okay.

I was the only car in the traffic circle.

When you are the only car and the idea is to slow down and yield to traffic on your left, there was no slow down as there was no traffic.

There are a handful of traffic lights between me and work and most of them are placed by some deviltry to do nothing but annoy me.

But it was okay as all those light were green.

I am not so foolish as to think I have found the trick.

I am not so foolish as to think this could happen again tomorrow.

I am happy for just today and for today, that is enough.

Hope for tomorrow, but for today …

driving in the dark
no slow down
through the circles
all the lights are green

3.14.2023 – one land by two sea

one land by two sea
three if by a computer
enemy is us!

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.

From Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I live and work in a resort community in the Low Country of South Carolina.

I am becoming acclimated to the area and its seasons and by seasons I mean the big ones, tourist and non tourist.

Right now is the down time.

The calm before the wake up storm of Spring Break that precedes the real start of the tourists that hits with Memorial Day.

Everything speeds up but at the same time everything slows down.

During the season, the number of people on the island where I work will triple.

While the population increases, the amount of available space on the roads for traffic stays the same.

As this IS an island, there is but one way on and off.

As population triples, travel time triples.

I like to use the analogy of an hour glass.

You can add more sand, but if you don’t increase the size of the neck of the glass, it will take a lot longer for the sand to dribble through and it no longer is an hour glass.

In March, the traffic increase is a forgone future.

You know its coming but there isn’t anything you can do about it.

You can enjoy the lack of traffic that is one of the major pluses of non tourist season.

That is, until two weeks ago.

I get traffic alerts on my phone from the County Sheriffs office and this one morning I got an alert that due to construction, traffic to the island was running slow.

I checked the Google for travel times and was shocked to see it would take me almost two hours to make the 22 minute trip to work.

To rub salt in it, the Google let me know that if I opted to ride a bike to work, it would take only one hour.

I checked in my office and let them know I would be leaving once traffic died down.

One of my coworkers responded to my text, to “Stay Home” as he was stuck on the bridge to the island and hadn’t moved in 30 minutes.

I continued to monitor the traffic, keeping the over filled hour glass in mind and knowing I would be at the very top of the sand in the hour glass, I waited until the trip showed a travel time of 45 minutes and then I left for work.

As I slowly drove across the bridge, I kept my eye open for the reported construction and I felt a bit cheated as there wasn’t any evidence of any work.

Traffic was the topic of discussion at work that day and the idea that the tourists were here early was raised.

Not this early was the consensus though it was said without conviction but more as prayer.

Then a funny thing happened.

We all left for home.

Once again, traffic collapsed.

Normal travel times for the trip home blew up.

My normal (non-tourist time) 22 minute trip home took 45 minutes.

Again, there was no sign of any road work or construction though folks at work had talked about the dread ‘resurfacing projects’ but there was no evidence of anything like that.

What WAS going on here?

The next trip was worse.

I began to leave home earlier and try to get out of work earlier and while that helped, my travel times were no way near what they had been.

The only thing that made sense was that it was true, the tourists had returned.

The paradigm had shifted.

Was the year round year of tourists that we saw during covid that was created by online schools and remote work now the norm?

I began leaving for my commute an hour early.

It was frustrating.

It was scary.

If it was like this now, what would it be during the FULL SEASON.

The topic became of the ONLY discussion at work.

I know what you are saying.

After driving in Atlanta rush hour for 12 hours, how could a little island traffic be such a pain?


There is a wonderful traffic sign you see in ATL.

It says simply KEEP MOVING.

While it may not be an accurate description of ATL Traffic, it is the MINDSET of the veteran ATL driver.

Keep moving.

There was the benign sense of the overwhelming that took over my brain in ATL and traffic became one homogenous band of brothers with the goal, keep moving.

The traffic would speed up and slow down by osmosis.

Here, the island traffic is made of 30,000 cars maybe with 30,000 independent, free agent drivers who all think that but more those other drivers, they could make it to their destination faster and if you would give then 10 or 15 feet of space, they will show you.

People speed up.

People brake.

People come to a full stop.

All on whim.

In ATL, I would get in my lane, have my music or audio book nd get into this mental travel zone and make it to work.

Now it is full on interactive driving that demands my complete attention or someone was going to get hit.

It was the most frustrating of commutes I have ever had.

For me, looking ahead to worsening traffic as the season progressed, like Tom Sawyer and the fence, “… all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit.”

Then an odd story appeared in the daily paper.

The story was followed up with a news release from the Hilton Head Island Township.

It was kind of a statement, kind of an explanation and kind of an apology.

About a mile after you cross over the bridge onto the Island, you come to a traffic light.

According to the statement-explanation-apology, the town and the South Carolina Dept of Transportation had set up a new computer timing system on this traffic light.

The new computer had not functioned correctly, so the statement-explanation-apology said, and only three cars were able to make the left turn at the light.

More than three cars wanted to make that turn, and cars backed up quickly and filled the left the turn lane and blocked one of the two traffic lanes in the main road to the island.

The construction was this work on this system.

Kind of an AI road construction that wasn’t real.

The traffic was all too real.

I am relieved.

I am a little bit more relaxed.

But I do have a question?



Did it take the powers that be take two weeks to notice?

Boy Howdy!

Welcome to the Slow Country.

3.2.2023 – driving with only

driving with only
half a brain need to save the
other half for work

Due to road construction and the tourons*, my last couple of commutes have been a little rough.

The bridge to the island where my office is was built in 1984 and while there have been no improvements to the bridge, the number of cars using the bridge has doubled.

They are putting more sand in the hourglass but not making the neck that connects the two halves of the hour glass any bigger so travel time gets higher and higher.

Seems like someone could realize that if you double the amount of sand in an hour glass, you would need to double the width of the neck to make sure it was still an hour glass.

I think it was Bill Bryson who said traffic engineers cannot fix traffic but they can spread the problem out over a larger area.

But I digress.

The problem for me is that I am getting so agitated with other drivers.

I get so agitated that it takes a lot of time getting my mind back in line to work.

I thought about how I used to commute.

I thought about how I used to commute when I worked in Atlanta and started writing these haiku.

In many ways my old ATL commute was much much worse.

The saying was what would you get if you took the cars in the world and put them end to end?

The answer was ATLANTA!

Atlanta traffic was always doing its best to kill me.

Low Country traffic just was to annoy me as much as humanly possible.

Over those ATL years, I was able to develop a commuting mind set where I used my half my brain, so to speak, to drive to work, and saved or reserved or protected the other half of my brain so that I could work once I got to work.

If I did it before, I can do it again.

I got up this morning a little earlier planning to get a head start on my drive.

I thought about my drive and the music I would listen to and the views I would enjoy driving towards the sun rising out from the Atlantic Ocean.

I made a big travel cup of coffee.

It was magical.

Did I worry when I had to go through that first traffic circle with a bunch of South Carolinians who understand neither the concept of yielding or know their right hand from their left?

No I did not and I successfully navigated that first road hazard on the my commute.

My mood was threatened when the feller in front of me who had successfully fended off my efforts to pass him stopped for a yellow light.

I just went with the flow.

Did I worry when I entered the merge lanes for the Bluffton Flyover where half the cars are trucks pulling trailers of tools twice as long as the truck that make blind side merging such an adventure?

Same for the merge of the Bluffton Flyover with 278 where you meet up with all the auslanders who slow down when they see the water of Mackay Creek and they point fingers at the water and yell, SEE THE WATER and slow down to see the water.

No I did not and I successfully navigated that second and third road hazards on the my commute.

It didn’t bother me when there was the usual fender bender on Pinckney Island where you finish the first bridge (the one not yet condemned but not deemed safe to use) and start the second bridge.

I used the slow down to have a big sip of coffee.

The taste of hot coffee in a well worn plastic travel cup took me back, BOY HOWDY.

On to the island and through the first 2 traffic lights and then over the Cross Island Parkway and the next 2 traffic lights and bang, zoom, I was at work.

Stoplights in the low country are always an adventure as, for some reason, South Carolinians are always surprised that the colors change and that the change in color requires a reaction beyond saying, GOSH THAT COLOR JUST CHANGED, LETS WATCH AND SEE IF IT CHANGES AGAIN.

But I made it.

I got out of the car and grabbed my backpack and walked up to the doors with a light heart.

I used my entrance code, which I take as a sign that I still have a job and entered the building.

I walked into the office and greeted my coworkers with a smile.

I made my commute and saved half my brain for work.

I wasn’t agitated or angry or spouting off at the mouth with all the things I wanted to yell at drivers that I didn’t yell because I knew they couldn’t hear me. (Okay I DO YELL even though I know they can’t hear me – you can ask my wife)


I was fresh and happy and ready for work.

I started my day with a focus on the drive and left half my mind for the job.


I zipped open my backpack and saw that I had forgot to pack my laptop.

*Tourons (according to Wikipedia) Touron is a derogatory term combining the words “Tourist” with “Moron” to describe any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity. The term is considered park ranger slang that describes how some tourists act when entering a national park. The phrase indicates an act of ignorance and is known to be used in different subcultures. It is also used to describe tourists in general when they are outside their normal “comfort zone”.

Tourists acting as Tourons can drive erratically. A common occurrence is to see vehicles stopped in the middle of the road at the first sighting of deer. Drivers and occupants leave the vehicle to take pictures, backing traffic up for miles. The term is used as humor to defend against the usual aggravation of continued exposure to tourists by even local residents of tourist areas.

12.1.2022 – morning drive across

morning drive across
salt marsh tidal flats under
live oaks spanish moss

Not so long ago, my morning drive was into downtown Atlanta, a commute rated in the top ten worst in America.

Today I reminded myself of that drive as I made my way to work on a island on the Atlantic Coast.



Atlanta was paved over roadways as far as the eye could see.

The road to Island is carved out of marsh grass and laid over swamp and tidal flats and over the inner coastal waterway.

The road to Atlanta went under other roads and light poles for lights that often didn’t work either because the city hadn’t paid the bill or someone had stolen the copper wire that connected the lights.

The road to the Island runs under live oaks and spanish moss.

It is a different drive.

In December, the sun, just minutes before having risen out of the ocean, shines into the eyes of anyone making the drive.

The going is slow and the road is full of cars but the amount cars, if you counted all of them, would total somewhere around 1% of the total number of cars that were on the roads in Atlanta.

With the magic that can be technology I can drive along with music playing in the car to match the mood.

There is something about driving along over a salt marsh and tidal flats and over water and under live oaks and spanish moss while listening to Appalachian Spring.

I don’t care if it is December.

11.15.2022 – that moment shows that

that moment shows that
the car can only know what
it is trained to know

Adapted from the article, What Riding in a Self-Driving Tesla Tells Us About the Future of Autonomy, by Cade Metz, Ben Laffin, Hang Do Thi Duc and Ian Clontz (NY Times,  Nov. 14, 2022).

Cade and Ian spent six hours riding in a self-driving car in Jacksonville, Fla., to report this story.

They write:

Tesla’s technology can work remarkably well. It changes lanes on its own, recognizes green lights, and is able to make ordinary turns against oncoming traffic.

But every so often, it makes a mistake, forcing testers like Chuck to intervene.

“That moment shows that the car can only know what it is trained to know,” Mr. Cook said of the sudden turn into the parking lot. “The world is a big place, and there are many corner cases that Tesla may not have trained it for.”

Experts say no system could possibly have the sophistication needed to handle every possible scenario on any road. This would require technology that mimics human reasoning — technology that we humans do not yet know how to build.

Such technology, called artificial general intelligence, “is still very, very far away,” said Andrew Clare, chief technology officer of the self-driving vehicle company Nuro. “It is not something you or I or our kids should be banking on to help them get around in cars.”

I like a lot of these sentences.

It is not something you or I or our kids should be banking on to help them get around in cars, was one.

And the line, the car can only know what it is trained to know, makes me think this article applies to a lot more than cars.

8.4.2022 – how beautiful to

how beautiful to
sight those beams of morning play
up from eastern sea

Adapted from Horace’s ode Diffugere nives (XVI) by A. E. Housman published in More Poems, Alfred A. Knopf. 1936.

How clear, how lovely bright
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Thought about this as I was driving to work.

And, as always, I was thinking, there sure could be worse morning drives (and I have made some of them.)

6.8.2021 – began trying to

began trying to
nourish outrage as a screen
for apprehension

It might be called road rage.

I talk to other drivers while I drive.

I know they can’t hear but that doesn’t stop.

Think Stupid, I say as I watch other cars at intersections.

I do not suffer fools gladly.

I feel if someone is going to share my road, they share in the responsibility to preserve my life,

I wish other drivers took that responsibility a tiny teeny bit more seriously.

So I remind them.

I talk to them.

I talk then yell.

Thin Stupid, Come on!

I also expect that if someone is going to share my road, the can share in the responsibility to keep traffic moving.

And they can help themselves out a lot if only they studied up just a little before leaving on where they were going.

I talk to them.

I yell at them.

Soon I am screaming at them.

Full of outrage.

Only recently am I understanding that my outrage is a just a screen.

A screen of my own apprehension.

My apprehension over not taking my role in preserving the lives of other drivers seriously.

My apprehension over where I am going.

My apprehension that other drivers are talking to me.

My apprehension that other drivers are yelling at me.

My apprehension that other drivers at outraged.

A hero is someone who backs their car out of the driveaway know all this, and drives a car to work anyway.

*Adapted from the line, “He forced his attention away on to Welch’s habits as a car-driver, and began trying to nourish outrage as a screen for the apprehension, tapping his long brown shoe loudly on the floor and whistling It worked for five seconds or less.” from Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, London, 1956

3.15.2021 – round and round it goes

round and round it goes
where traffic stops nobody knows –
changes, not progress

I was reading this morning about the feral hog/pig/boar problem in Florida.

I fell in love with a sentence that read, “The hog issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.”

I read it over.

I read it outloud.

The hog issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.

I wanted to grab and pad and pencil and start making a list of problems, that cannot be thought of as a solvable problems, but ones that could only be attenuated.

I quickly realized that my pad would not be big enough.

What a simple solution to so many issues.

In my mind somewhere is the saying, “If there is no solution, it is not a problem.”

This is a great saying to have handy when there is beach nearby that you can visit easily.

Some problem or issue pops up in your email.

You have no answer.

You have no solution.

No solution, then there is no problem.

No problem, well then, no problem and I am off to the beach.

But if the issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated, then goodbye going to the beach and get to work.

Get to work on attenuating the problem.

What a great word.


My pirated desktop Oxford English Dictionary defines attenuated as weakened in intensity, force, effect, value.

I now want to grab my pad and pencil and list all the things in my life that have been weakened in intensity, force, effect, value as I get older.

But I quickly realize I don’t have enough time.

So back to the problems that are not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.

Can there be anything higher on the list than traffic?

Put today’s rubrics together and we can create a statement that might read: “Traffic is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be weakened in intensity, force, effect and value.”

I really like that.

Traffic is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be weakened in intensity, force, effect and value.

It was Bill Bryson who wrote that traffic engineers cannot fix traffic, but they can spread the problem out over a larger area.

The latest fashion of dealing with traffic here in the south is the traffic circle.

On a drive from my home to the beach I will navigate three of these answers to traffic problems.

According to the Wikipedia, “Compared to stop signs, traffic signals, and earlier forms of roundabouts, modern roundabouts reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions greatly by reducing traffic speeds and minimizing T-bone and head-on collisions.”

So they reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Or do they reduce the likelihood of the T-Bone and head on collisions while increasing the likely hood of side swipes and rear-corner panel collisions.

But do they improve traffic flow?

Wouldn’t that be the main question?

Wouldn’t that be the goal of someone who is trying to weaken in intensity, force, or effect the ‘not thought of as a solvable problem’ traffic?

The other fun part of these traffic circles for me is two of the three circles are on Hilton Head Island here in South Carolina.

The island, like Mackinac Island, has lots of bikes.

Lot and lots of bikes.

The island, unlike Mackinac Island, has lots of cars.

Lots and lots of cars.

Neither of these issues are thought of as a solvable problems for the island.

Neither of these issues seems to have been thought out as forms of transportation that can co-exist on the same overloaded roadways.

Then I ran across this.

The Hovenring.

An elevated bike traffic circle the floats over the roadway

The hovenring was built in the Netherlands.

The hovenring is perfect for Hilton Head Island.

According to wikipedia, The hovernring was built because, “In order to improve the flow of traffic and improve safety, it was decided to completely separate motorized and bicycle traffic.

So much for the thinking that this might be not be thought of as solvable problem.

Here is evidence of real change for the better!

Here is evidence of real progress towards a real solution.

The hovenring!

Of course, there is some more to the wikipedia entry.

It goes on to say, “In addition, it was decided to transform the roundabout for cars into a regular crossing of streets, to improve the flow of traffic

So it goes.

Round and round.

And as we all know, what goes around, comes around.

It’s not thought of as a solvable problem.

2.7.2021 – American Satire

American Satire
American Reality
Where does one stop, start?

In answer to the question, in a recent interview, “Do you consider yourself a satirist,?”, satirist Fran Lebowitz said, “In a way, yes, but, American reality has been so extreme of late that satire is almost impossible. Anything you could possible imagine actually happens. It would stump Jonathan Swift.”

It was Jonathon Swift who wrote, “Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”

I have to admit I am not sure what this all means.

I think it boils down to, you can’t make this stuff up.

How did a national response to a global pandemic become a political statement based on wearing or not wearing a mask?

Ms. Lebowitz also said in this same interview:

When I was young there was a very strict idea of the boundary between the public and the private life.

So, things that you might do in the privacy of your bedroom, you wouldn’t do on 12th St.

That seems to have disappeared entirely and it is not just the young; it’s true even of people my age, who were brought up in a certain way and then forgot about it.

It is surprising to me just how unconscious people are of themselves in public, considering how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time”

Is that the answer to the question?

Consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time.

I like Ms. Leibowitz a lot.

Just when you think she has gone off into the happy world of hyperbole and complains that New York City spent $40 million dollars researching how to and then putting lawn chairs in Times Square, you find out she was telling the truth.

When I consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time, I am reminded of an essay on the future by one of my favorite writers, Michigan’s Own, Bruce Catton.

Mr. Catton wrote, “The dismaying world we confront was given its vast intricacy and its perilous speed by human beings. The one basic resource we have always had to rely on is the innate intelligence, energy and good will of the human race. It is facing an enormous challenge, but then it always has; and it meets each one only to confront another. If now we give way to the gloom of the apostles of catastrophe we are of course in the deepest sort of trouble. The old reliance is at our service. It can bear us up if we put out full weight on it.”

This is where that comment of Ms. Leibowtiz comes in to play.

American reality has been so extreme of late that satire is almost impossible.

Anything you could possible imagine actually happens.

If we have to rely on the innate intelligence, energy and good will of the human race while at the sane time we consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time I think we are of course in the deepest sort of trouble.

Not something I would dare put my weight on at this time.

12.15.2020 – four way stop, wait turn

four way stop, wait turn
democracy in action
signal of the end

I have long thought that the first signs of the end or at least the beginning of the beginning of the end would be a disregard for the traditional four way stop.

I am not referring to what was called the ‘Michigan Slide’ as you slowed for the stop sign and zoomed through if no cars were at the intersection.

I mean if drivers paid no attention at all the rules of the four way stop.

The State of Michigan publication, What Every Driver Must Know states: “You reach a four-way stop intersection with a stop sign at each corner of the intersection. The driver who arrived at the intersection and stopped first has the right of way through the intersection. If two or more vehicles reached the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right.”

I have to admit that when I started writing this I did not expect such open ended language as the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right instead of MUST yield but I will go on.

I have to mention my pet peeve on this though.

No where does it say you wait until cross traffic has cleared the intersection completely before you enter the intersection.

I guess this leads to my ‘snooze you lose’ comments when I give up waiting for that driver on the left.

Now to go on.

The four way stop is a picture democracy and cooperation at its most base level in the ideal.

The greater good for the greatest number of drivers.

Everyone gets their turn.

Everyone has to wait.

Everyone has respect for the other driver.

Everyone is fairly inconvenienced.

No one is singled out and picked on.

No one is singled out and gets special preference.

It requires cooperation.

For the most part it works out okay.

It works when everyone follows the rules.

It works when everyone follows the same rules.

It works when everyone follows the same rules and they know what the rules are.

What happens when folks every don’t know the rules, don’t follow the rules or just don’t care?




Hard to imagine that the four way stop could be improved on.

Like all things in America however, there are those who think this can be improved.

Don’t want to pick on anyone but it sure seems like traffic engineers are folks who can’t leave well enough alone.

Mr. Bill Bryson writes that traffic engineers cannot fix traffic problems but then can spread them out over a larger area.

And to digress, if you took all the cars in the United States and put them end to end in one place what would you have?


The answer to the ‘problem’ of the four way stop that is turning up more and more is the traffic circle.

This is happening despite the traffic laboratory that has been maintained for years in Washington DC with such nightmares as the circle around the Lincoln Memorial.

To me it would seem that if any local traffic council spent 10 minutes or 2 hours or a day or two stuck going around Mr. Lincoln they would never approve a traffic circle.

Here in the low country there is a love affair with traffic circles.

The love them so much they make them two lane circles.

The outer is supposed to be for drivers making a right turn.

The inner lane for drivers going straight through or what would have been a left turn.

The only directions at the intersection is a sign that says, “YIELD TO BOTH LANES.”

It can be a head scratcher.

Some drivers approach boldly and enter the circle at speed and weave back and forth across the lanes.

Most drivers approach tentatively and yield to any and all traffic both real and imaginary.

You can feel the frustration build up as the bold drivers and tentative drivers mix with each other.

But it at least eliminates the questions of who got their first and who is on the left.

You buys your ticket and you takes your chance and you drive right in.

It can be downright scary.

Also for some reason the State of South Carolina doesn’t seem to beleive in either street lights or roadway reflectors.

On reflectors, that may be because the State of Georgia took them all.

Anyone who has driven through Atlanta on I75 at night and gone through the I285 interchange will know what I mean.

I sometimes thought the just tossed handfuls of reflectors out there for no reason.

But back to the circle.

I can say this, it would never work in a snowy, slippery climate.

Not that that would stop the State of Michigan from trying them.

There are the latest thing after all.

I like the four way stop.

I think they work.

I can handle the circle, sure.

In place of cooperation, drivers go and expect other drivers to get out of the way.

Both get you to the other side of the road.

But if you aren’t careful.

All you do is go around in circles.