Every region has its own driving pattern, and I suppose that you can learn a lot about an area by observing it. I spent most of my driving years being schooled on the New Jersey driving rules and I have to admit that I like their style.
In NJ, it is all about time, therefore any driving that hinders one’s ability to get expediently from Point A to Point B is perceived as rude. The speed limit is considered a minimum threshold and on a 3-lane expressway, the unwritten rule is that the right lane is reserved for those who observe the speed limit (or 5 miles above). The middle lane is intended for those who drive about 10 miles over the speed limit and the left lane is designated for passing or those brave souls who ignore the speed limit entirely. Drivers who don’t respect those rules will hear blaring horns and receive “the look.” NJ driving values fit well into my view of things, but the Eastern Shore, well that is a different story.
On the Eastern Shore, independence, not time, is paramount. The philosophy is that “no one is going to tell me what to do” and that no one should be in a hurry. Here the speed limit seems to be merely aspirational. Since most roads on the Eastern Shore are single lane, I find myself at the mercy of this local perspective. It is inevitable that I will be behind a large, thundering pickup truck whose speed will vary randomly a few mph above or 10-15 mph below the speed limit throughout its journey. If I am not directly behind this driver, I will be part of a long line that is. Attempts to pass are only for the bold, as I have witnessed some of these drivers aggressively speed up when someone attempts to pass them.
Even if I am lucky enough to be alone on the road, I can expect someone to suddenly pull into my lane, requiring me to brake dramatically and then the driver will commence to crawl along, well below the speed limit. I have also observed that there appears to be some mysterious vortex that renders turn signals of Eastern Shore vehicles inoperable. It makes anticipating a driver’s next move quite challenging. A sudden stop in the middle of the road could be a left turn, a right turn or a desire to rest or even text.
Within a few months of moving here, I realized that I would not be able to hold onto my tenuous sanity and continue driving, so I purchased a car that has variable cruise control. This cruise control allows me to set my speed (in my case, a couple of mph above the speed limit, because I can dream!) and it adjusts to the driver ahead of me, so I don’t have to try to anticipate his or her variable moods.
The Eastern Shore is stunningly beautiful, there are few roads that are not punctuated with a bridge that crosses a picturesque river or creek. Woodlands and farmlands frame each road, and ospreys, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, bluebirds, barn swallows, cardinals and other birds delight me with their beautiful colors and aerial maneuvers. Sunsets and sunrises are marvels of pink, robin’s egg blue, and steel grays blended with deep red and orange hues. Simple clouds resemble thick, fluffy cotton balls, pink cotton candy, or wisps of polyester-fill strewn through the sky. It is difficult to live here without absorbing the natural beauty which softly inhabits my psyche. This is good, because I have a lot of time to soak it in while I am driving.
Angela Rieck is a former executive of a large insurance company and holds a Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland. She now lives on the Mid-Shore.