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HUMLEKER: If a roundabout is our big problem ...

Recently I overheard the following tentative but very matter-of-fact statement between a couple in the Flat Rock post office after they’d endured their maiden voyage through our splendid new roundabout on Greenville Highway. “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”


There were four or five of us standing in line, post-holiday Amazon return boxes in hand, and as the aforementioned couple stepped in, everyone was chattering about the traffic circle. Everyone. I heard one fellow swear he’d witnessed someone coming out from town try to turn left into the circle to get to get onto Shepherd Street. Another person witnessed the same sort of misadventure coming the other direction – someone trying to turn left to reach Erkwood.
Ladies and Gentlemen: you may not make any left-hand turns into a roundabout in this country. I haven’t seen anything quite so egregious, but I have witnessed several overly timid drivers come to a full, very unnecessary stop before entering the completely traffic-free circle. Those very obvious red-and-white inverted triangle signs with the word “YIELD” on them mean just that: YIELD to oncoming traffic already negotiating the circle. If there is no oncoming traffic, there is no need to stop. Yes, a bit of judgment is required … a little politesse and a touch of ever-elusive common sense go a long way. But in addition to the newly experienced drivers I mentioned, I also overheard one painfully overwrought person announce that she was going to avoid the roundabout at all costs as it is “absolutely a death trap” courting disaster. Really. Thank you, ma’am. In your case you are probably right and you should absolutely avoid endangering everyone else on the road. Meanwhile, we ordinary folks will “get it,” and before long, practice will make perfect, and when the school buses are among us between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, or during our weekday “rush minutes,” the ease and efficacy of our roundabout will be ever so much more evident. I promise. Even if it did take five months to build. And with any luck, our wise county/city/village elders will build more of them!

There. The previous paragraph will not only put me in danger of offending a few people (sorry … I like traffic circles) but demonstrates exactly why I love living in a smallish town. Would that all the world had our level of problem(s). We have a little of everything here … the key word is “little.” Indeed, we have people in need, we have people with assorted unfortunate problems, we have politicians (most well-meaning, but our share who are less savory) and people of every stripe just like anywhere else. But the majority of us are just fine, thank you. We live in a beautiful place and are grateful for and appreciative of not only our surroundings, but of our fellow residents. We recognize our problems and do our best to address them, and because of our scale, we can usually manage to do something. Things may not be especially exciting here, but we can easily visit Charlotte or Atlanta if we really want the in-your-face urban scene. And then we can come home … and drive through our own roundabout on our way into town.
Phew! Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

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Stuck in the Late Middle columnist Bill Humleker ruminates from Flat Rock on parents, marriage, children, grandchildren and life.