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Grinning and daring it - Gerry Yandel

There's a question that has been nagging me for the dozen years I have lived in Stockbridge that I'm sure has occurred to you as well: What is the deal with people who jump their turn at a four-way stop sign?

Granted, in the grand scheme of things, like the meaning of life, the existence of UFOs and why my dog thinks it's okay to gnaw on the coffee table, it's probably not high on the cosmic priority list.

However, on the list of pointless exercises that might cause spontaneous road rage, it has to be among the Top 3.

Before I moved here from intown Atlanta, my experience with four-way stop signs was limited to the times I ventured outside of I-285 and down a two-lane country road somewhere. Back then the novelty of it came from those annoying little speed-breakers that make the car vibrate violently like a giant gag buzzer more than from other traffic.

I became more intimately acquainted with four-way stop signs in a hurry, though, when we moved down here off of Flippen Road near Pate's Creek Elementary School. There was one set of stop signs at the intersection of Flippen and Hudson Bridge roads, and another set within shouting distance at the intersection of Flippen and Jodeco roads.

Rarely a day went by when some fool didn't take it upon themselves to go out of turn through one or the other of the four-ways.

In many cases, the offending party was frequently outdone by one or more of the other drivers who actually had the right-of-way.

Horns, scathing glares and withering looks seem to be the weapons of choice. Frequently someone will fire off a one-fingered salute. But, in the more entertaining cases, a kind of creepingly slow game of chicken ensues, as the drivers lurch toward each other, inching forward, bit by bit, to see who has the guts to go for it.

And, every now and then, some enterprising uninvolved party will take advantage of the stand-off and dash through the gap.

The whole thing looks like some crazed courting ritual between dumb and dumber. I think of it as a Dance of the Dunderheads.

If it wasn't such an ugly dance, it would be almost beautiful in how it raises selfishness and self-importance to sublime levels. Fascinating like a train wreck.

I have since managed to cut my immediate exposure to this ritual by half, and there is only one four-way stop sign near me now. Unfortunately, it's right outside one of the entrances to my subdivision and pretty much unavoidable.

So I've been forced to find a better way to deal with the endless flow of cretins who think they are exempt from the rules the rest of us follow on the roadways.

Sending lethal waves of retributional karma their way not only proved to be ineffectual, but it backfired by generating negative energy that stayed trapped in my car.

So I started to suppose, maybe they really are more important than anyone else. Maybe the fate of the world does hang in the balance unless they steal that extra three seconds they gain.

These days, I simply wave and mouth, "Thanks," to the people who cut me off at four-way stop signs.

It probably doesn't do a thing for them, but it sure keeps me smiling.

Gerry Yandel is the city editor for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or gyandel@henryherald.com .