The Not-So-Great Gatsby

Not So Great Gatsby: Driving Mr. Gatsby

Dear Nick:

Driving on the short but uniquely Rhode Islandish stretch of I95 that serves as a spine for the state, I saw a guy transporting a long metal ladder. There’s nothing unusual about that, until I reveal that he was driving an old Ford Escort and the ladder was balanced on and sticking out through the two back windows. A news story reported an ax flew out of the back of a pickup truck and smashed through the windshield of the driver behind him. No one was killed, luckily, but these are just typical sights when braving the roads with perhaps the worst drivers in country.

There is no insurance company data to back up my claim. In fact if we ask the insurance companies, we are the 10th BEST state for drivers. But they have Massachusetts at 7th, and we all know that can’t be right.  Truthiness, the word that Stephen Colbert coined and which Merriam-Webster deemed an actual word is the “feeling of truth.” And Rhode Island being a tribe of Mad Max crossed with the SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY Monster Truck pull smash up derby just has a sense of truthiness to it.

I was late to meet Daisy at the Style Week Northeast Event. Rosanna Ortiz does such a great job of bringing big fashion to this little state, and its great to be enveloped in the glamor for a few hours next to the catwalk. As I looked for parking near the Biltmore, I found a spot that seemed too good to be true. I put my big city expatriate skills to the test and backed into the spot. I thought that we were too far north to be in danger of being lost forever in a sinkhole of tragi-comic proportions, but the pot hole in my parking spot was so large that my car was practically standing straight up in the spot. I have blown four tires on four different roads this year, and my daily commute is less than 5 miles. A friend who was deployed in Afghanistan told me the roads over there are in better shape than RI.  And Rhode Island hasn’t endured air strikes recently if memory serves.

So there are obstacles to dodge, and the roads are too narrow and at times unexpectedly one way. I have lived on the East Side for over a decade and there are roads I turn down, even now, that I do so with trepidation. We still have cobblestone streets! And while quaint to look at, even the horses that carried the buggies to market hated these.

We all know that texting while driving is just as bad as drinking and driving. And with Uber now serving Newport and Providence, you can drink until the walls start spinning and then grab an Uber and send ill-advised texts to ex-beaus and women you just met that night without impunity while luxuriating in a back seat. But when you are driving, sometimes those messages just can’t wait. Like Pavlov’s dog, our itchy texting fingers begin salivating to respond as soon as the ringtone chimes with news.

Driving is difficult. You have to be constantly vigilant for potential danger while keeping your hands at 10 and 2 and periodically checking your mirrors for anything crazy coming up from behind you, all the while texting, playing with the radio, putting on makeup, eating your lunch and drinking your morning coffee. It’s difficult. Add in the one-way streets, the aggressive pedestrians always crossing against the light, hipsters who apparently learned to ride a bike two hours ago and decided that they’re Lance Armstrong-in-a-fedora ambling down the middle of the road, the trench-like potholes and the narrow, quaint cobblestones and I am beginning to see the point of the insurance company rankings. Anyone can drive on a nicely paved thoroughfare, but it takes serious 10th ranked driving skills to even make it home when you live in the Ocean State. Watch out for that flying ax, Old Sport!

Yours truly,