You probably didn't know this, but Gloucester is home to one of the great mysteries of the universe. No, it doesn't involve the 17th century grave site of America's original revolutionary, Nathaniel Bacon, which has mysteriously eluded discovery for more than 300 years. Neither does it involve the origins of the native residents of Guinea down in Gloucester's swampy southeastern peninsula, a legend of multiple explanations that includes vague references to descendants of Revolutionary War-era mercenaries hired by the British who stuck around by hiding out in Gloucester after the 1781 surrender at Yorktown. Rather, the great cosmic mystery in Gloucester is something that confounds hundreds, possibly thousands of people each and every day.
It's negotiating the traffic circle, or roundabout ,at the "Wal-Mart intersection."
Say you want to live on the edge and literally gulp down adrenalin by the bucketful. Why, you would be wise to try and traverse the roundabout several times. You would cheat death. You would have to have your car insurance agent on speed dial. You would wonder how something seemingly so simple flummoxes motorists who apparently either can't read a "Yield" sign or just plain don't care.
Let's review the rules and regulations of traffic roundabout etiquette. Surely it must be a manual on the order of "War and Peace." Right? I mean these things are complicated, right?
Um, no. The operative word is "yield." Apparently people don't know what the word means because everybody I know has a "Wal-Mart roundabout" horror story. Or two. Or a million.
One time I was meandering through the roundabout when a young kid in a jacked up pickup barreled in, nearly making my old Volvo four-door sedan a hatchback. I laid on the horn, rather liberally I might add. We were both heading the same way coming out of the roundabout and he stopped in the middle of the road's right-hand lane in front of Chick-fil-A and gestured to me. I pulled up next to him and with the passenger's window down and politely informed him that he was supposed to yield to the vehicle in the roundabout. Which would be me in my Volvo.
He informed me in rather colorful terms that I was supposed to yield to him. I hesitated before replying that the "Yield" sign was directed at the vehicles entering the roundabout, which he clearly was. For example, if you approach an intersection and there is a stop sign that you can clearly read on the side of the road to your right, I'm pretty sure that means you are supposed to stop. It would not be a stop sign for the cross traffic, in other words. In this case, the "Yield" sign is facing traffic approaching the roundabout -- not the traffic in the roundabout -- and is on the right hand side in clear, even plain view. Which motorists should take to mean that they better yield.
Except for the young buck in the pickup who, in even more colorful terms, disagreed with my sign-reading suggestion and thought it would be a good idea for us to pull in the Chick-fil-A parking lot to settle things. Needless to say I proceeded on to Wal-Mart while he simmered in his road rage over a chicken sandwich.
So here's the deal Gloucester drivers and motorists who wander in and have nearly hit me from locales far and wide, such as Maryland or North Carolina: If someone is in the roundabout, they have the right-of-way. It's that simple! As you approach the roundabout, from any direction, slow down, observe the traffic that may be in the roundabout and then proceed into it when you have an opening of appropriate length. Traversing the roundabout shouldn't be the equivalent of a shark circling its prey, because that's how it feels sometimes when you are in the roundabout.
For a glimpse of a street-view of our famed roundabout, here's a link: Roundabout o' death