My town recently installed a roundabout, or as I like to call it, survival of the fittest circle. While aesthetically pleasing and nice in theory, roundabouts present their own little version of hell. Oversized, mid-sized, and undersized vehicles all jockeying for position. Some employ the scrambling-to-get-in-method, and with barely a cursory glance, floor it and don’t look back. Others, hypnotized by the traffic pattern, sit glued to the pavement as traffic behind them is forced to play bumper cars. There is no eye contact in the roundabout, to look someone in the eye is to challenge the beast, or admit weakness. The whole problem at the roundabout is that nobody really gets it, but nobody wants to say that they don’t get it. So like high school on your first day, it’s cool-game-face-on and pretend like you know what you’re doing. Really, everyone has their own belief system or has made up their own rules when it comes to the roundabout.
A friend recently posted on her Facebook page that she wished she had a paintball gun for when she had to go through the roundabout, because most folks can’t seem to figure out yield, stop, or go, let alone the more complicated concept of right-of-way, and use your bloomin’ blinker. So I wondered, what was it about the roundabout that is so intimidating? If we come to a normal intersection we don’t seem to face any dilemma, but roundabouts seem to pose a problem, and even a stress of some sort. Regular T-shaped intersections are predictable. It’s clear what you’re going to do and what everyone else is going to do. There’s no every-man-for-himself involved. Contrast that then, with the roundabout. We know where we’re going, but we don’t know where the other guy’s going. Conventional intersection: if someone’s in the turn lane–even without their blinker on–you know they’re going to turn. Roundabout: blinker or no you can’t believe the hype. You are in a kill or be killed situation. Roundabouts are the hunger games of driving. So why is that?
Well, in my deep thinking, I’ve decided it’s because roundabouts are in some way a metaphor for life. I like the predictable. I like the routine. I like the organized. I like my ducks in a row, and I don’t want to have to use my crystal ball to figure out the future. I’m a standard intersection sort of girl. When things aren’t predictable, aren’t routine, and aren’t organized, I’m anxious, adrift, and even more scattered than I usually am. (and I’m a scattered sort of girl) There’s a popular quote ” Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”(Bill Keane-yup, the guy from Family Circus!) I’ve made peace with the past, and I’m fine with the present. It’s that future thing that can seem overwhelming. There are no blinkers or street signs to warn us of the zigs and zags and detours that are going to come into our life. Everyone’s life plays out in a different way, based upon their choices and circumstances. But in my case, it seems I get to spend a lot of time at yield before I finally get the green light to go. Often as I merge into the traffic snarl of life, I am gripping the wheel, white-knuckled and with a constant prayer under my breath. Those times are the hard times. Those times are the walk-by-faith times. Those times are the through-a glass-darkly times. In those times my GPS is my faith, and I’m grateful for the strong faith that I have. Other times, there are no traffic jams in my life, and every light is green. Everything flows smoothly-like clockwork, and isn’t a clock face really the same as a roundabout? A simple circle. It doesn’t have a beginning or an end.
The truth is that even with the stops and starts in life, it’s all one eternal round. The course is set, and the journey’s already begun. Along the road are obstacles, breakdowns, sometimes even gridlock. But eventually order is restored, and I progress–wiser, but really none the worse for wear. So it’s my choice really, to embark confidently, firm in the knowledge everything’s gonna be okay even without knowing the outcome; or to hesitate–and even temporarily halt while I get my bearings, before proceeding cautiously. Kind of like the roundabout, the rules aren’t exactly clear. But instead of fearing the roundabout, now I drive that way on purpose, knowing I can conquer it. I don’t need safe intersections to guide me to my destination, I’ll get there in my own time and in my own roundabout way!
Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending.”
-George Eliot, Middlemarch