The first thing almost everyone said when they heard we were moving to Dallas: “You’re going to hate the traffic!” It appears that most of you know me well, and can therefore describe with alarming accuracy my incapacity to deal with sitting at a dead stop on a high-speed highway.
Me: “Oh, for crying out loud! What are you people doing?!? Go! Go!! GO!! Dammit, move the #$$%^ out of the *&(%$$ way! #$&** @##$% #$#$^* *?^^#@#$%^!!!!!!!”
So, I’ve got to set the record straight. Defend my new city’s reputation. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. (Oh, wait, that was earlier in my life.)
During my 2-plus months here, I’ve spent much less time getting to work than I did in Nashville over the same amount of time. I have several theories (of course) about why this is.
First: There are massive interstates here that have created sprawl, yes. And there are many, many, many cars on the road. However, the vast majority of those interstates don’t crunch right together in a big knitting-yarn ball like they do in Music City. Dallas has big, huge cloverleafs and big, long merging lanes, which funnel the traffic much more nicely.
In Nashville, the two-mile blender where I-40, I-440, I-65 and I-24 all come together was clearly designed by Marquis de Sade. Day after day, heading to Vanderbilt, I came to a screeching halt as four lanes of traffic crossed over onto each other like a big motorized game of Twister. Most drivers dealt with this in a healthy way, which usually included screaming nasty things and flipping each other off. That’s probably because …
Second: … in Nashville, there are fewer ways to get there from here. Or here from there. The river cuts the city in half, so it’s harder to dodge around pileups and stuff. In Dallas, if the tollway backs up, I can take Inwood Road. Or Marsh. Or any number of two- or three-lane byways that run parallel to the highways. And the roads are pretty much squared up in east-west and north-south patterns, instead of strings of spaghetti. I love my Music City, but if I-40 snarls coming in from the east, Lebanon and Murfreesboro roads just aren’t good alternatives, with their stoplights and zillions of feeder streets.
Third: Toll roads. It costs me a buck or so to take one to the hospital, but it is so worth it. No big trucks. Less traffic. Smooth surfaces. Ahhhhh.
Fourth: Speaking of big trucks… One thing I’ve noticed, if one can notice an absence of something, is that there aren’t very many on Dallas roads. In Nashville, 18-wheelers are everywhere. Sometimes, driving to work, I wouldn’t see daylight for the whole trip. When I had the top down, I’d show up at the hospital with big black raccoon circles around my eyes and grit in my teeth from the diesel particulates. Here, they must go around the city, because they’re few and far between.
Don’t get me wrong, I love trucks and the goods they move. But the hundreds of them chugging through Nashville every rush hour created huge bottlenecks, avoided only by arranging your work hours to start at 3:47 a.m. and end at 9:04 p.m.
Fifth: Dallas actually has a mass transit rail system. It appears that only a few thousand folks ride it each day, with most people preferring to zoom to work in their Mercedes, BMWs, Aston-Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys. However, that’s still a few thousand fewer cars off of the roads at rush hour. In Nashville, I often rode the lone mass-transit train in to Vandy, merrily accompanied by about 15 other brave souls who didn’t mind things like big clumps of rust falling into their hair or the lights in one or both of the passenger cars going out.
All this said, of course, nothing’s perfect. Dallas highways all have service roads running next to them, including these cool little U-turn-only lanes. While handier than a pocket on a shirt, these service roads still confound my little GPS lady. The other day, she said, and I quote, “Go left, then right, then left.” All together, at the same time, as I streaked northward on I-35.
Since I’m so darned good at taking direction, I immediately went left, then right, then left, all together, at the same time.
This resulted in me screeching sideways in a cloud of burned rubber into a miniscule space between a 1972 Ford F-150 with no tailgate and 4,367 tree limbs in its bed and a red Mini Cooper with fat, white racing stripes that were way too macho for it.
I waved, of course. “Sorry! So sorry! Tennessee plate! Notice the Tennessee plate! Sorry!” I was so happy to see that they waved back. With part of their hand, but that counts, right?
Really, though, most drivers are very nice, much like Nashville. I kind of expected more big-city snarkiness, but just haven’t seen it. For example, there are these white painted lines on each merge lane, and you’re not supposed to cross them. And they don’t! You’d think those lines were wired to send huge jolts of electricity into your car, the way they avoid them. I was heartily surprised by this, being used to Nashvillians zooming down the shoulders, crossing grassy medians and driving under semis to squeeze in ahead of bumper-to-bumper traffic on merging lanes.
So when you come visit, don’t be afraid of the traffic. I’ll even let you drive my new Aston-Martin, as long as you only stay on the tollway.