Why I Always Leave 10 Minutes Early Every Where I Go.

Y’all – I wrote a really funny blog entry yesterday about something really stupid I did and NO ONE commented and I spent all day stressing that maybe I had crossed that line where my crazy antics were just sad and pitiful and not funny anymore. Maybe that “funny insane” thing I did was just “really insane” and no one thought it was funny but really just thought I needed serious professional help and they just weren’t brave enough to tell me. BUT THE DAMN ENTRY IS STILL IN DRAFT.

My routine is to blog in the morning before work most days. If you don’t see one by 9am CST? Feel free to email me and say, “Zoot! Check your draft folder!” I may publish it tomorrow, because today I have something else I want to talk about. I want to give you a deeper understand of my driving anxieties because someone honked at me yesterday for “not going” when it was “clear” and I almost died from it.

I have no desire – NONE – to ever skydive. NONE. NEVER. NOPE. And while I’ve encountered some people who have loved it and done it, no one really tries to insist that I do it. People in general accept that fear because you can live your life JUST FINE without ever sky diving. A lot of people would be fine living their lives without sky diving, and no one ever tries to force them to do it. Most people have some sort of understanding of that fear.

I think about that a lot. About how sky diving is an acceptable and relatable fear. I think maybe because we’ve all probably been on a tall building, or on a roller coaster, and experienced that momentary terror so we know that fear and we all completely understand in some capacity how that fear could be too much to over come for such an extreme activity.

But I must tell you – and you must believe me – there are moments where my anxiety over driving is as strong as my fear of jumping out of a plane. Driving is the thing that causes me the MOST anxiety in my life. THE MOST. It used to be “driving” and “social situations” but I’ve become much better at social situations over time so that’s more of a solid second place now. But I’ve been driving non-stop for 24 years and my anxieties have only gotten WORSE over time. WORSE. This is why I would never be more comfortable riding my bike on a road over time, if 24 years of driving didn’t ease my anxieties? No amount of miles on my bike is going to either.

Imagine, for a moment, if you had to face the level of fear you would face jumping out of a plane, every time you got in your car. Now imagine if just a small change in your route would remove that fear, WOULDN’T YOU DO IT?

And this, my friends, is why I avoid left turns and high-traffic merges. And I need you to know that so that you will STOP HONKING AT ME, DAMMIT.

I know my town fairly well. I know where all of the lights are that are “left turn only on green arrow” on my side of town. I know how bad traffic is in most areas so I know how to avoid bad left turns at all costs. But this job I have now requires I drive sometimes in parts I’m unfamiliar so sometimes I end up at a left turn without an arrow and with traffic and this is MY NIGHTMARE. In that moment I’m feeling the fear you feel if you’re about to jump out of a plane. I’m sweating, I’m nauseated, and I’m terrified. And you can bet I’m going to wait until I’m 100% certain it’s “clear” to turn and I do NOT trust oncoming traffic to be driving at the proper speed so I’m certain you’re going to think it’s clear before I will and IF YOU HONK AT ME all hell is going to break loose in my head and there’s a really good chance I’ll make a bad decision fueled by anxiety and terror and I’ll get in a wreck.

Luckily, I know my town well enough that I can avoid this most of the time. And even if I’m coming up on a turn I’m supposed to take if it looks like a bad one I’ll just keep going and find a different route. I rarely find myself in this situation. I ended up over the mountain the other day just avoiding a bad left hand turn, that’s usually what I do when I’m coming up on one.

BUT – the only entrance into my office is a turn with a small window of “yield on green” instead of “turn on arrow”. It DOES HAVE an arrow or I would simply go out of the way to enter from the back entrance through the shopping center. When I have to turn there, I always hope traffic is just bad enough that I can wait for the arrow. BUT – sometimes people don’t like me doing that and they will honk and PLEASE STOP HONKING AT ME WHEN I AM TERRIFIED.

Yes. You might be thinking that maybe I’m looking at my phone and didn’t realize it was clear. And if it’s a green light where there’s no choice to be made, and it’s obvious I’m not paying attention, feel free to honk. But if there’s a chance the person in front of you is having a full-blown panic attack and being OVERLY cautious, maybe just give him/her some breathing room, okay? Because if you honk I will panic EVEN HARDER and I’ve been known to turn when it was probably not safe just because I’m now freaking out about the angry person behind me. I AM PAYING ATTENTION, I promise. I’m just having a come apart and really am waiting for an arrow to tell me it’s safe to go so I don’t have to trust the oncoming traffic not to be speeding.

Someone once told me that they HATE those kind of lights that I love. The ones that ONLY let you turn on the green arrow. “Let me make the decision! I hate sitting there waiting when there’s no traffic!” But y’all? That doesn’t bother me AT ALL. As a matter of fact, I’ll take 10 minutes waiting at an intersection with no traffic over 5 seconds of trying to decide when to turn in traffic. The route I take home from work to avoid high-speed merges or construction areas or risky left turns involves about 20 more lights than the other way I could take but I don’t mind sitting at lights! There’s no stress to me sitting at a light. I’m just waiting for someone else to tell me when to go and I much prefer that over high speed merges in rush-hour traffic on the controlled access highway. I don’t trust the people merging not to kill me and I don’t trust the people I’m merging into not to be assholes so I avoid controlled access at rush hour. I’ll use those highways on my way to work when it’s 6:30am and no traffic, but on my way home? Give me the route with the 20 lights instead.

You ever see that person STOPPED in a merge lane? That person represents an example of me jumping out of a plane. That person is LIVING my fear and I avoid that situation at all costs. It’s never happened to me (thank god) but since I’m so worried the roads are full of people who would rather get in a wreck than let me merge, I avoid those merge lanes in traffic like you might avoid drinking water in an underdeveloped country. You worry there might be something in the water that might kill you? I worry the merge will kill me so I just avoid it.

But sometimes you can’t. When you’re traveling long distances you have to get on and off the interstate. Donnie drives through the high traffic areas on our trips and I handle the long stretches of highways between cities, but sometimes he’s not with us and I have to merge and it TERRIFIES ME. For that 5 seconds I feel like I’m having a heart attack. THE FEAR IS REAL.

I guess I’ve just discovered lately that – unlike people who fear sky-diving – I’m in the minority with my driving fears. No one really gets it. But that’s fine because I don’t get you sitting out in an intersection on a 6-lane highway waiting for it to “be clear” to turn left when it is NEVER GOING TO BE CLEAR. I park in the VERY back of the Target parking lot so I can pull-through and not have to back out when I leave. I do NOT understand people who park close but then have to back out to leave. A parking lot with no pull-through options because of those slanted spots? KILLS ME. I still find a way to park far away in an empty area so when I go to leave I have plenty of lines of sights for backing out. Donnie doesn’t pull through, even if the spot he chooses has no one in front of him. I’m like, “Why don’t you pull through?” He doesn’t have the anxiety about backing out in a busy parking lot that I do, AND – there’s no line in front of him telling him when to stop. So he doesn’t like that. I THINK THAT IS INSANE.

I work above a CVS and I see people all the time park out my window where the do what Donnie does. They pull in to park and then don’t pull through even though there’s no one in that spot and every time I watch it like I’m watching a suspense thriller. I MUST SEE WHO GETS OUT OF THE CAR. What kind of person makes a decision like that? I MUST KNOW.

Do you know who does? EVERYONE BUT ME. Just like the people who like “left turn yield on green” lights. Everyone likes those but me. One changed in town recently and I was SOOOOOOO EXCITED and everyone else was SOOOOOOO PISSED OFF.

So, since I’m the minority? I figured it was my duty to explain to you how I think and feel so that maybe you can pause a little before honking. If there’s no way the person in front of you is stressing over deciding when to go? Then honk. But if there’s a chance they’re just suffering from anxiety trying to decide when to go? JUST WAIT. Trust me. They’ll thank you for it.