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Driving and Thinking


As much as I love this community, sequestered away in these lovely mountains, with a remarkably accommodating population, it does, like most places, have its quirks. It could be something in the water, maybe it’s hereditary, but Polk County has the strangest drivers I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve lived (and driven) in a lot of places and there are characteristics that go with most locations. In Europe, driving in the cities is organized pandemonium. France is the worst. Panama City is probably the most dangerous – where people drive with one hand on the steering wheel and the other constantly on the horn, while pedestrians dash through the traffic like nervous lizards.

But Mena, and most of Polk County, is a bird unto a different feather. Half the time it seems like the drivers of this area have just gulped down a handful of Quaaludes – blended themselves a Cannabis smoothie before taking to the road.

I drove to Fort Smith the other day – a good quick drive – everyone around me paying attention, driving at, or just a little above the speed limit, everybody moving along briskly. The moment I got back into Acorn and the outskirts of Mena, I was immediately trapped by a driver going 25 in a 45 MPH zone. I turned onto Highway 8 East and found myself caught behind a fellow going 40 in a 55 MPH zone – just cruising along, not a care in the world – perfectly comfortable backing up traffic behind him. Probably sipping on his smoothie. Here’s the truth, going much slower than the speed limit is not a good thing – it doesn’t make you or the people around you safer.

It’s not just the speed thing – I’ve watched people sit at a stop sign long enough for me to suspect they might have had a heart attack. Just the other day I was fairly sure the person in front of me coming out of Wal-Mart had died in her seat. Folks around here have developed a whole new philosophy on the “Right on Red” concept – it’s not to be used if you can see a car in any direction for at least a mile. And blinkers – let’s talk about blinkers for a moment. For those of you that don’t know, there is an arm extending from the left side of your steering column that can be pushed up and down – to provide the people behind you some indication of what you’re going to do. It’s a great invention. You ought to try it.

For those of you taking drugs and driving, shame on you – stupid, stupid, on so many levels. For the rest of us, we all need to remember we’re not the only people on the road, that there’s a difference between stop signs and roadside rest areas, and ultimately, we need to know when to hold up, when to fold up, and when to walk away.

For the life of me I don’t know why Mena can’t seem to sustain a small taxi service.

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