06E025

 

"How to Drive in Cedar Rapids, Iowa"

 

Welcome to the City of Five Seasons, home of the most polite and safe drivers in the United States of America.

As a newcomer, you'll find that the lack of aggression on the road will make your blood boil. To calm down, simply tune your radio to a soothing channel, close your eyes, and imagine the slow tractor or bounding deer that awaits you around every curve.

Courtesy on the road is inbred here or, in the case of non-natives, possibly court-ordered. Our homegrown reticence is best experienced at any intersection with four stop signs.

At a four-way stop, don't touch that gas pedal until you are absolutely sure that it's your turn to go. This is a good time to turn to your passengers and finish a conversation. Consult a map. Give everyone in the intersection plenty of time to ascertain that you are all making the right decision.

When someone waves at you to go, interpret his deference as an act of aggression. Or question whether he really means it. Either way, don't go. Don't shift out of Park. Just wave back. You could use some of this chivalry back home in Massachusetts!

After living in Cedar Rapids for just a short a while, you'll begin to wonder: Why use a turn signal? Everyone should recognize your car, and therefore deduce exactly where you're going (and why). If they don't, they're Hawkeye-hating, corn-scorning interlopers anyway. But let's return to the four-way stop intersection, where you're still sitting.

If you and the oncoming car are both going straight, make sure you don't proceed at the same time. There's always the chance that the person who starts to go straight will turn at the last second, and how will you both end up? Embarrassed. Because you were supposed to know where the other car was going (and why).

Imagine what happens when an aggressive stranger violates our rules of prudent motoring. Just last year, a visiting Bostonian approached an intersection and found four cars resting with their right-turn blinkers on. No doubt they were looking out for stray children from the park just 500 yards away.

 

The drivers were:

 

1.     A first-grade teacher.

2.     An ex-convict, one of the teacher's students from 1989.

3.     A soccer mom on her cell phone, calling the ex-convict's roofing business.

4.     A frustrated engineer, forced to move to Cedar Rapids for his job (the soccer mom was his boss's wife).

 

They gazed at one another with a mix of fear and recognition. The first to turn might suffer the dire consequences of impropriety. The "Masshole" (that's the engineer's term; I prefer the more delicate sobriquet "Chowderhead") leaned on her horn.

She bullied the young engineer in front of her to begin his right turn just as she passed him -- on the right. Fenders were bent. The Bostonian was deported, rendering the intersection nay, the great state of Iowa safe once more. We take great pride in driving away the riffraff away.

 

END