I took my life into my hands today. No, I did not go skydiving again—although I would really like to. I didn’t even attempt roller skating in my driveway again. Nor did I ride with a teen-aged driver. What I did was enter the roundabout at Walmart.
According to Wikipedia, a roundabout (also called a traffic circle, road circle, rotary, rotunda or island) is a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is permitted to flow in one direction around a central island, and priority is typically given to traffic already in the junction. Supposedly—my insert— modern roundabouts observe various design rules to increase safety. 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.
Hah! Wikipedia doesn’t know anything about driving in the Panhandle! For that matter, neither do most of the other drivers on the road, myself excepted, of course. I can tell you from personal experience that roundabouts are completely baffling to most drivers. For example, one of the unwritten rules of roundabouts (are there written rules somewhere that nobody knows about) is traffic already in the circle has the right of way. This seems to be confusing for a lot of people, especially those making a left hand turn from John Sims Parkway into the Walmart parking lot. Perhaps they feel the green left turn arrow also gives them automatic right of access to the traffic circle fifty feet away. I have been in the circle many times when cars come flying into the entrance to the parking lot and straight into the roundabout regardless of who else is already in the roundabout. Yes, I know if I end up plowing into one of those vehicles because I am, after all, right, it will still generate a hassle I don’t need. So I always hedge a little to see if the oncoming cars are actually going to yield to the traffic in the circle like they are supposed to. This is bound to cause criticism from the drivers in the circle behind me. I can just hear them saying, “That stupid woman doesn’t know how to drive in a roundabout! Look at her stopping when she has the right of way!”
To make matters worse, the entire Niceville Walmart parking lot must have been designed by a demented sadomasochist. You drive to the end of the aisle thinking you can get out, and find yourself caught in a never ending maze of “can’t get there from here”. You can see the exit road on the other side of the curb and grassy expanse, you just can’t access it without going 3 miles (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little) to the extreme end of the parking lot and locating the one hidden connector road which will get you there. On your way to ferreting out the one exit, you have to dodge clueless people who are walking down the center of the parking aisles with their noses stuck in their cell phones and other cars who are practicing for the Indy 500. (Or perhaps they just think you’re out to take a parking spot they saw on the other side of the next aisle but have no idea how to get to.)
The frustration is enough to make me want to drive over the curb and the grassy expanse in order to bypass the labyrinth of horror. Unfortunately, though, I still have to go through the roundabout on the way out.