If living in the rural South has any drawbacks, and I’m certain it does, it has to be that the people who have lived here all their lives, and have never ventured more than a few miles from where they were born, have no concept of what vehicular traffic is, or how to operate within the expectations of other motorists.
There are some people in South Georgia who were born when The War Of Northern Aggression was still being fought, and they remember fondly those days when automobiles were a new and fanciful idea. Back then, speed was not measured in miles per hour because there was no way of traveling more than a mile in less than an hour. But why would you if you could? Where would you be going that fast anyway? After some very serious research and more than a pint of truly good moonshine from a gifted distiller, I uncovered the Old Fashion Method of measuring speed during travel: Mule Factors. Mule Factor One is that speed in which a mule travels, with one rider on its back, in one hour, at the mule’s most leisurely pace. This is the speed at which a lot of people in South Georgia still travel, even though they are now in automobiles. Mule Factor One is a deceptive speed; you don’t realize how slow these people are traveling until you are right up on them. If you’re in a hurry your best bet is to get out of your truck, walk up to where they’re driving ahead of you and ask them if they might speed up to Mule Factor Two. I wish you luck. It’s nigh impossible to have a conversation with a Mule Person that doesn’t last an hour or so.
Mule People do not comprehend some of the more complex and fancy traffic control devices recently invented. The octagonal red STOP sign was simple enough but then those damn rocket scientists had to go and fiddle around with the damn things until they came out with that totally confusing labyrinth-like set-up they call The Four Way Stop. This is chief among the banes of the Mule People. There is nothing, anywhere, that signals that the very hand of Satan has been laid upon the land as The Four Way Stop.
If you are behind a Mule Person and you both are approaching a Four Way Stop, and there is no one already at the intersection, you had better have a good book of advanced Sudoku puzzles on hand. The Mule Person will slow down to Mule Factor .001. The theory behind this follows this logic: You are not supposed to travel through a Four Way Stop until the first car there goes through first. What happens if two cars get there at the same time? Why some sort of apocalypse! Better to sneak up on The Four Way Stop, make sure someone else gets there first, and then glide in. Slowly.
It does indeed get worse, much worse in fact.
If you are behind a Mule Person who had actually made it to a Four Way Stop without anyone else there, then that is where they will sit until someone else gets there. The logic behind this inaction follows: The person who gets to a Four Way Stop first goes first. Going first means someone has to be there to go second. You can be a mile away from a Four Way Stop and a Mule Person will wait until you get there, stop completely, and then pull out slowly. And these rules are for those Mule People who get it. These are the rules for those who have taken Advanced Traffic Classes for Mule People. If you come up to a Four Way Stop, the only thing worse than having one Mule Person there is to have two there at the same time. Disaster is invited. The most likely and worse case scenario is that they are actually close enough to each other to realize they know each other. Grinning and waving ensues. If you’re behind one of these Mule People in this case, never, ever, blow your horn. In Mule Person lingo, this means that you want the person ahead of you to get out of his pick-up truck and talk. He’ll slowly ease out of the cab of the truck and hobble back to where you are, the other Mule Person will put his truck in park and begin hobbling towards the both of you, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a hour long conversation about how terrible it was to live when Hoover was president.
All in all, this is a much better situation than being somewhere that gunfire is exchanged, or where masses of people are zooming by at a billion miles an hour or where unless it’s with one finger, no one waves at anyone else. The Mule people hold the line against all this, slowly stopping change, and traffic.