Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Little irritants

I have a long commute. It's 37 miles, more or less. It takes me almost exactly an hour, door to door. Each way. Why do I drive so far? Because we have a great house in a great village with absolutely the best school ever for the kids. And I don't usually mind the drive so much. It's a nice bookend to my workday, allowing me to ramp into the day, get my schedule for the day figured out, and then, coming home, time to decompress and forget about the little annoyances.

But sometimes the drive has irritants, too. Like driving itself. As you probably noticed, my average speed on my commute is... um... carry the one... about 37 miles per hour. That's partly because the last 10 minutes of it are speed-limited at 15 MPH. But it's also due to the driving laws around here, and the fact that a one-lane-in-each-direction road, with a hard shoulder, is considered a major thoroughfare. The roads here are winding. There are limited opportunities to pass (or "overtake," as they say here). And the speed limit laws don't help.

Know what this sign means?

It means "The national speed limit applies here." Yep, it's a speed limit sign. What's the "national speed limit"? Well, if you lived in the US, until recently, you'd be safe in saying "55 MPH." But in the UK? You have to know the rules. Ready?

All roads with streetlights are 30 MPH unless otherwise posted. Otherwise the national speed limit of 60 MPH applies. Unless you are on a "dual carriageway," which is basically any road with a median (or "central reservation." Then it's 70 MPH.

Oh, wait. That speed limit is for CARS. If you're a truck or a bus, or if you're towing something, it's 10MPH lower (50 on regular roads, 60 on dual carriageways).

What does this mean to me? It means that even though the speed limit is 60 for most of my commute, the traffic pattern goes like this: Truck (doing 50), followed closely someone driving a "sensible" car (Volvo) who, trying to maintain a safe distance, is doing 47. Followed by long gap, then another truck, doing 45. Followed by 3 more cars, doing 43, followed by me, doing 40. The first car behind the second truck can't pass. The next car can't pass both of them, and of course, I'm farthest back. Then a bakery truck comes roaring up behind, passes everyone on a blind curve. The second truck slows to let him in, so of course we all slow. The road straightens. Passing opportunity! Oh, wait. The Volvo won't pass. The bakery truck does, which leaves a gap for the guy behind the second truck, but the guy behind him leaps out first. He whips around the second truck; the formerly first car pulls in behind, and I finally get close enough to the truck to THINK about passing him. Of course, the road starts to wind again, and no straightaways for another 5 miles or so.

Oh, and now there's no empty gap for me to pass into.

Good thing I'm on my way to work. If it were somewhere I really wanted to go to, I might get really upset.


Coke said...

I am now extra thankful that my commute is 20 minutes, mostly on highway, most of it posted at 65MPH.

And, I'm going to work from home this afternoon. And probably tomorrow.

Sorry, man.

Susie J. said...

You know what the answer to this is? Make Susie drive you to and from work every day. Yup... she'd love you for it. She's got nothing better to do with her day. And you'd get to just hang out on the wrong side of the car and relax.