Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
The dictionary tells us “a gladiator was an armed combatant who engaged in violent confrontations with other gladiators, who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the arena.” The arena in this case is the Powder House rotary. The weapons are our vehicles. What you risk are heated and maybe physical exchanges with other drivers, possible collisions resulting in damage, and subsequent insurance surcharges. All this to get someplace a half a minute sooner.
You start getting nervous! You know it’s coming! You can almost see it! And then, there it is! The Rotary. Somerville’s traffic free-for-all. I swear, some drivers shut their eyes and just hope for the best, while others prepare for the ensuing battle. Let me give you a very simple explanation of what you’re supposed to do before getting into the rotary traffic, or as I call it, the circle of hell! There is no need to approach this sphere of terror with anything but calmness. Just make sure your seat belt is fastened. Here we go.
If you are coming from Medford on Warner Street you have to stop before entering the rotary. If you are driving down Broadway from Ball Square you have to stop before entering the rotary. If you are coming down College Ave. from Tufts you have to stop before entering the rotary. If you are driving on College Ave. from Davis Square you must stop before entering the rotary. If you are driving down Broadway from Teele Square you have to stop before entering the rotary. A very simple suggestion could ease the stressful experience, and the suggestion is this: JUST STOP WHEN YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO STOP!
This is when you are legally required to bring your vehicle to a complete stop: When you come to a STOP SIGN, and when the traffic signal is BLINKING RED OR SOLID RED. The rule of the road is not who can drive faster and who can cut the other guy off. The rule of the road is simple. Do what the signs and signals tell you to. And a yellow light does not mean, “Okay, gun that sucker as fast as you can!”
We are all very impressed by your fancy Camaros, Mustangs, and Chargers. And yes, when we see you driving we say, “Wow, ooh . . . that guy is really, really, really cool!” We all had a muscle car in the day and I have news for you junior. If you keep beating that muscle car, you’re going to end up through someone’s fence, or up against a telephone pole. Been there, crashed that! You don’t have to constantly try to blow the doors off of every other car in your path. Live and let drive!
It’s gotten to the point that I feel like putting leather gloves and a helmet on every time I approach the rotary. I have been driving in Somerville since 1970, but I am by no means a great driver. I have some bad driving habits that I am trying to change, honest! We all need to ease up on the road. Sometimes I am too damn defensive but it’s not my fault. It’s the way I was conditioned. The rotary seems to be an every man for himself situation when it’s really not. It brings out the worst in drivers. All you have to do is stop when you are ‘sposta and use a little common courtesy.
If I have stopped on Broadway in front of Dunkin Donuts, and I proceed into the rotary, I am not stopping for the idiot who ran the stoplight on College Ave. from Tufts and expects to blow by me. I already stopped, he didn’t.
When I first got my license I loved driving. I would pile four or five of my friends in the car and cruise around all night. I never thought I’d see the day that driving became a matter of survival. Did you notice that the nuts that bomb into the rotary haphazardly are driving cars with dings, bangs, and dents? That’s why you have to be on your best defense.
If you want to drive as a gladiator and face the possibility of a smashed car or a smashed nose, good luck. If you want to be a responsible driver, leave the gladiator mentality to those nuts on TV. Obeying the rules of the road, along with some common courtesy, may fend off a mental melt down, keep the ulcers away, and save a lot of money in surcharges. If you still don’t think the Powder House rotary is dangerous to your health, just look at what happened to that poor deer last Thursday.