A Matter of Convenience


I was following a coworker recently who reminded me how often one can use a turn signal.  Right turn signal at the end of a parking lot row, left turn signal at a painted stop line in the parking lot, right turn signal at the stop sign… on and on it goes.  And all of this without other vehicles nearby.  After commenting turnsignal_mirror_1 on this, his reply was basically that he was teaching the world to use turn signals one intersection at a time.

So, I’m using mine more often now, and I’m certainly more consistent at doing this when other cars or pedestrians are in the area.  That’s a good thing.  Because, like everyone else, when trying to pull into traffic, I hate waiting for a car to pass only to find that he turns short of me.   “Use your signal, idiot! I could have gone already!”

I’m one of those conflicted people who enjoy driving but hate traffic.  A smooth ride, a proper ergonomic fit within the driver’s seat, strong acceleration, handling turns at slightly higher than advised speeds, high fidelity audio… good stuff.

Traffic?  Meh.

Is it strictly the number of vehicles on the road and their corresponding brake lights?  No.  Atlanta has its share of heavy volume; you get used to it.  Rather, it’s the traffic lights.  You’re bopping along and suddenly a light changes in front of you, In London, but an art piece - it just stirs up warm and fuzzy feelingswith no other cars at the intersection.  “What gives?”  Same situation but one car is there.  “Of all the luck.”

My in-laws had some German friends visiting years ago.  They went to a shopping center, bought whatever, took their bags to the car, got into the car and then drove to the other end of the shopping center to go into another store.  Their German friends were fairly stunned that, rather than driving, they wouldn’t just walk the short distance to the other end of the shopping center.  Aside from arguments regarding exercise and fuel efficiency, the heart of the matter was convenience.

Americans are all about convenience.  Drive thrus, Ticketmaster (convenience charges, right?),Chinese take-out mail boxes at the end of our driveways, personal printers on our office desks, Chinese take-out… not to mention Convenience stores. 

We call them conveniences, but as wasteful as they are in some ways, they’re also each about efficiency.  What’s the value of our time?  Whether it’s chores, work, entertainment, quality time, or a Sunday nap, we pack a lot into our days.  Finding the means to shorten or avoid those things that we don’t want to do in favor of those that we do matters.

So, I’m running some errands before picking my kids up from a school event.  Again.  I, of course, tried to see if a neighbor could bring them back, but no such convenience was to be found.

It’s lunch time.  And I’m also hungry as my morning bagel is long forgotten.  So, I start thinking about the restaurant options available between here and there.  Let’s see. 

Burger King:  Whopper, Jr?  Check.  Fries?  Lousy. 

Hmm. Next would be McDonald’s!  Fries?  Check.  Burgers?  Lousy. 

What else is there?  Quik-Trip?  Hot Dogs, Taquitos… no.  I’m not yet down to my spare coins.

Are there no other options?  Why, yes!  There’s Taco Bell (no), Checker’s (maybe), and yes!  Chik-fil-A! 

But… (insert whiny voice), they’re on the wrong side of the road!  It’s such a pain to turn left because you have to wait for the traffic light to cycle for your turn, and after getting your food you have to wait all over again for the light to let you out… ugh.  Left turns are what make errands take forever.chik-fil-a sandwich

But, Chik-fil-A… That’s worth  an extra five minutes of my life, isn’t it? 

Yes, there is a train of thought here.  First, it struck me how often I tend to think of stopping on the right side of the road (fast food, gas, supermarkets, etc.) because of an ingrained sense of inefficiency at any prospect of turning left.  Being on the right side of the road is to be not only directional but desirable.  Secondly, I don’t know that I fully appreciated howwaffle house often I settle for less just because it’s more convenient.

I’m not alone.  Around Atlanta, it’s common to find two Waffle Houses on each side of an interstate exit so that people traveling in either direction won’t have to turn around.  Commercial parcel values are also sensitive to ease of access during peak traffic hours.  But, I really didn’t realize how well I had subconsciously programmed myself to think in those terms.

And those traffic lights I hate?  It’s easy to forget that they do stop cars from running into each other.  And, they benefit me just as often as they (aggravatingly) slow me down.


  1. Dunken Donuts and Krispy Kreme purposely locate their stores so that the majority of people will have the store to their right as they head in to work in the mornings for the exact reason you noted. It works!

  2. I'm going to tell Greg about your Mcdonalds comment.

    Cheryl (Reinadoma)