Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Driving differences between Charlotte and Boston

I knew there would be significant differences between Charlotte roads and Boston roads. Boston has a well-deserved reputation for aggressive drivers, and getting a car there after not driving regularly for over 10 years was a baptism of fire. Compared to that, driving in Charlotte feels like being on training wheels. As an example, let's take the intersection of I-74 and Sam Newell. It's a four-lane road meeting a two-lane road. And it takes 4 minutes for the light to go through its cycle. Encounter another 3 of those intersections and it can take over 15 minutes to travel 2 miles. Why does it take so long for the light to cycle on such small roads? Because there is an explicit green-left-arrow for left turning vehicles that preceeds the general green light -- and left-turning cars are usually given a red-left-arrow during this step, guaranteeing that there will be a large build-up of cars waiting to turn left when they next get their chance. Over all, it's much calmer than Boston, in which the left turning cars would just watch for a break in oncoming traffic and gun it. Given that the total cycle in Boston is usually less than a minute, you're guaranteed that at least one car will get to make a left turn (actually 2 or 3 are guanteeed to make it, given Boston's drivers' tendency to pull forward and block the intersection) each minute. I'm not sure if the hand-holding is a good idea, but Charlotte implements it well. While north-south traffic is making left turns, the east-west traffic is given an explicit green-right-arrow. (The only issue here is that U-turning traffic has to yield.) So this leads to the biggest surprise: given all of the above, you would expect Boston drivers to be more patient about making a red light, since they will get another chance very soon, and that Charlotte drivers would be more impatient, since it'll be a while before they get their turn. But of course that's wrong. Boston drivers will go through a red light a whole 2 seconds after it's changed, while Charlotte drivers will (mostly) sit back and gladly wait 4 minutes for their next chance. Guess things are just more mellow here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What's in a middle name?

So I went about getting my new North Carolina driver's license. (This was after getting new NC insurance and before getting a NC license plates. Fortunately contract work affords me some scheduling flexibility so I could put this off until my workload had significantly decreased.) Lo and behold, my Massachusetts driver's license didn't have my middle name on it, just an initial. Same story with my Social Security card. Presumably my passport does, but it's at the bottom of an unknown box as a result of two moves. I had to find a notary public, which ended up being my bank. (Not even they knew my middle name.) And had them notarize a form in which I attested to my middle name. As Sharon said "for pity's sake." I could've given them any middle name and it still would've worked. But I had to spend an hour combusting gasoline nonetheless. Anyway, more of my move is now complete.