There’s no way around this

Nov. 03, 2013 @ 04:23 PM

There’s no round-about way of saying this: I hate roundabouts. I hate them even when they use aliases and are called traffic circles.
Yes, I know that the National Bureau of Annoying Street Plans has found that installing roundabouts at intersections results in 4.3 percent fewer accidents than caused by movie theater popcorn machines. And yes, I know that roundabouts are designed to speed up traffic, reduce gas consumption, alleviate congestion and solve the debt crisis.
They also are quite good at translating from the Serbo-Croat.
But all I know is that I will drive to Michigan to save time and avoid a roundabout in New Jersey.
Roundabouts are — according to Wikipedia, my impeccable source for information derived from other people who know almost as little as I do — “a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is slowed and flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island to several exits onto the various intersecting roads.”
That’s exactly right, except for the part about flowing almost continuously and slowing and going in one direction and the rest of the sentence.
In the real world, roundabouts get you and they never let you go and you end up going round about and round about. This can make you very late for your appointment with the dental hygienist.
In an attempt to free up the hygienist’s schedule, several new roundabouts have been installed near my neighborhood by the state Department of Excessive Meddling. This is how I deal with them:
I approach the roundabout cautiously, having left my car three blocks away while I reconnoiter. I then start reconnoitering, trying to figure out what reconnoiter actually means and how do you spell it?
I notice that there are no vehicles in the roundabout. Traffic consequently is flowing almost continuously. I go back to get my car.
By the time I arrive again at the roundabout, there are vehicles streaming into it from all directions, including Stockholm. I try to remember that the key rule of roundabouts is that traffic that is entering the circle must always yield to traffic that’s already in the circle, particularly if the circle is actually a rhomboid.
For an hour and a half, I yield.
Meanwhile, I text a little on my phone, I watch a movie, I eat dinner. I play solitaire.
Finally, I ease my way gracefully into the almost continuous flow, trying to remember that in about three seconds I have to get through four circles of vehicles driven by people playing solitaire and paying no attention to my screams.
There’s my exit.
But there are cars continually flowing in. I cannot get out. I keep going round and round, regularly passing the place where I had entered the roundabout and waving hello to family members who have come to cheer me on from the sidelines.
Round about midnight, I get out. I am, of course, back exactly where I had started.
Neil Offen can be reached at