Wednesday, August 27, 2008

'Alternate' ways

What does 'Alternate' mean to you? I contemplated this on my way to work today. It must mean many different things to different people. I did some research.
According to the Online Dictionary it means:

al·ter·nate /v.
1. to interchange repeatedly and regularly with one another in time or place; rotate (usually fol. by with): Day alternates with night.
2. to change back and forth between conditions, states, actions, etc.: He alternates between hope and despair.
3. to take turns: My sister and I alternated in doing the dishes.
4. Electricity. to reverse direction or sign periodically.
5. Linguistics. to occur as a variant in alternation with another form.

I tend to go for #3, esp when on 70E heading for the ramp onto the beltway. See there are two lanes, which MUST become one. This happens all over the US, and usually very smoothly. Here is the USA, we understand the taking turns concept. There is even a sign at this interchange to remind drivers "Alternate Right of Way."

Why is it that here in Baltimore, that is such an alien concept? We obviously have different definitions of 'Alternate.' If I was to go by the drivers today, it means gunning your engine to keep your car 2 inches from the bumper of the car in front, and ignoring the 18 wheeler beside you. It means doggedly refusing to give way even when there are two cars side by side in one lane, on a narrow bridge, and going downhill. It must mean honk your horn and flip the bird to anyone and everyone around you. (Don't worry Mr. Mustang convertible, the Reverend you flipped off will still pray for you.)

Perhaps they believe the sign is referring to Alternate Music? Or Alternate Lifestyle? Maybe it's like Alternate Jurors, only called up if someone else can't serve. Maybe they think it's actually a 'green' sign urging them to use Alternate Transportation, or Alternate Routes? If they keep it up they will be finding Alternate Routes as they go flying over the side of the bridge onto the beltway.

Just so all of you know, (those who were driving on 70E this morning) that sign means we have to TAKE TURNS! That means first the car on one side, they the other goes. Left, then right, then left, and so forth. Why don't we all try that tomorrow?

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