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  1. I moved to the Saint Paul a couple years ago from California and before that I lived in Cape Cod, where maybe because people were on vacation they were annoyingly nice (stopping to let people in when they had the right a way), especially since most were from Boston. Boston drivers are probably the fastest and most inconsiderate drivers I ever encountered (sorry, maybe it was because I had Cape Cod plates on my car and was always lost in Boston due to moving there at the tail end of the Big Dig).

    When I first arrived here I thought every one drove slow, but were very nice drivers. Then one time my sister was in the car with me (she has lived here for 30 plus years) and I stopped when the light turned yellow and she told me if I kept doing that someone would ram into me because everyone burns the lights here. I soon saw what she meant and I never assume to turn left when the light turns yellow and someone is coming three blocks away. Once I stopped when the light was orange (I’ve always called it orange not pink) and the guy behind me laid on his horn. I’m not sure why this is, but I have adapted although I do not run the red lights myself I no longer think yellow means I can turn left anymore.

  2. Hi Margot, welcome to the conversation. Orange makes more sense: yellow shading towards red. I’m sure my friend Marcia said “pink” just to be strange.

    cape cod tunnel permit

    I don’t think Cape Cod plates would trigger more aggressiveness in Boston; you were probably just witnessing the normal insane driving behavior. Now, if you had one of those “Cape Cod Canal Tunnel Resident” permit stickers, and they thought you meant it, that might do it.

    (For the Minnesotans: there is no Cape Cod Canal tunnel. Just two bridges that back up for miles on alternate sides of the canal, Friday and Sunday afternoons.)

  3. Another reason perhaps that Cape Cod drivers are, on average, fairly civil: there are many retirees there. Retired people tend not to be in so much of a hurry. Wolfram Alpha informs us that the median age in Middlesex County, MA is 38.5 years, while that of Barnstable County on the Cape is 49.9. (Ramsey County’s median is 34.6 years — all those colleges — and Hennepin’s is 35.9.)

  4. In the course of my Midwest sojourn, I made several driving trips to the Twin Cities. To be honest, I can’t say that I ever noticed much difference between Minneapolis/St. Paul drivers and those in the other areas I was frequenting at that time. But then I was spending most of my time driving through rural Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Western Minnesota, with occasional forays to places like Omaha, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

    But I do have vivid memories of a Columbus Day weekend drive from Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, where I was supposed to pick up my wife, who was flying in from Omaha, at the Minneapolis airport. Unfortunately, my departure from Fargo coincided with the arrival of a major snowstorm, and travel conditions quickly deteriorated to the point where it became unclear whether I would be able to get to Minneapolis at all, let alone on time to meet my wife. This was long before cell phones. So with no reliable means of reaching her, I pressed on at a much reduced but probably still somewhat reckless pace, and in the end it sort of worked out. When I arrived, several hours late, I found her patiently (relatively speaking) waiting in the airport lounge.

    But what I most remember about that drive, particularly the early part, is the number of drivers, most with Minnesota plates, who seemed entirely flummoxed by the prospect of unexpectedly having to drive in snow. All around me, vehicles were skidding, spinning out, and generally behaving as being driven by someone who had never before encountered snow. Even in my preoccupied and goal-driven state, I found this quite startling. This is Minnesota? But yes it was, and based on later experiences, this one was probably quite atypical. But it made a big impression.

    As for my wife, I’ve wondered of late whether those several hours of sitting alone in the Minneapolis airport lounge awaiting word of her delinquent husband might have marked the beginning of the disillusionment that led to our divorce 42+ years later. You never know. If so, Minnesota, it’s partly your fault.

  5. Hi Irv, thanks for the essay! I wonder whether the inept Minnesota drivers you encountered in that early snowstorm were simply in denial of how early it was happening. Columbus Day for Pete’s sake? Of course you were in Fargo, which I gather is a bit more extreme weather-wise than the Cities.

    The earliest serious snow I have experienced fell in my first year in Massachusetts. I had arrived in June. By October the temperature was dropping most distressingly. On October 18th over a foot of snow fell. The roads were a royal mess, to which I probably contributed in my inexperience.

  6. From the Maine Driver’s Manual: “Steady Yellow: Caution. Traffic signal is about to change to red. Begin to slow down. A yellow light clears the intersection before the red light.”

    In my opinion, this means that a left-turning car does own the yellow light…

  7. Hey Valerie. Yes, I read the Maine manual the same way. “Begin to slow down…” would not apply to one stopped with left turn signal blinking.

    In fact Minnesota is even more explicit that the left turner owns the yellow light, in law. From the Minnesota Driver’s Manual:

    When waiting to make a left turn at a green traffic light with oncoming traffic, position the car into the intersection where your body appears even with the curb line. The only opportunity to make a left turn may occur when the green light changes to yellow.

    That’s not the way it is on the ground though. Just yesterday I was 4th to turn left at a light-controlled intersection. The three ahead of me made the turn, with increasing urgency, on pink, quite pink, and most extremely pink. That was after two oncoming drivers barreled through the yellow.

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