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Smithfield, RI Weather

IMHO: Circular Logic

By Ron Scopelliti

I approve. I just want to get that out there right from the start. I do approve.

Sorry, I kinda got ahead of myself – I’m talking about the new set of roundabouts in Apponaug, officially known as the “Apponaug Circulator.” I only recently had a chance to try it out, and going through it once has made me want to immediately go back and try it again. I know it’s caused some debate among drivers, but according to traffic engineers a setup like this reduces the severity of accidents compared to more traditional intersections, because there are no opportunities for head-on or broadside crashes.

There also seems to be some debate on the internet about why roundabouts are now called roundabouts instead of rotaries. Some say the terms are interchangeable, while others believe that the term roundabout should be used to distinguish a “modern roundabout,” from a smaller, old-school rotary.

Apparently modern roundabouts have a different dynamic than rotaries like the ones we used to have on Rte. 2 around Exeter. It’s one of those concepts like differential gears, where I can understand it enough to accept that it works, but would have a hard time trying to explain it. Or maybe it’s like the difference between a donut and a bagel where they superficially resemble one another, but you know the difference as soon as you bite into one.

But, once again, whether we’re talking differentials, donuts, bagels, or roundabouts, I approve.

For one thing, roundabouts create a smooth traffic flow. And in a world where there constantly seems to be more stop-and-go traffic, more waiting in line for cashiers, more pop-up ads, more construction sites, and more of everything else that gets in your way and blocks your progress, I consider anything that makes life move more smoothly to be a big plus.

I try to make these columns flow smoothly, but it obviously doesn’t always work out that way. My mind tends to be rather twisted, and my thoughts take circuitous paths. I try to give these paths a smooth flow from one seemingly-random point to another, but I just wish I had a little more control over where my thoughts go.

For instance, when I’m playing Lord of the Rings Online, random sit-com references tend to wander into my head and destroy the whole Middle Earth ambiance. Whenever I have to fight “fell spirits,” I can’t help thinking of them as “Norman Fell spirits,” and picturing them turning and smiling at the camera after cracking a joke in Jack Tripper’s apartment. And when I deal with a faction called “the Eglain,” I tend to have “Seinfeld” flashbacks and think of them as the “Eglain Benes,” or occasionally, the “Eglain Benes Kennedy, Jr.”

But I digress. My point is that I sometimes wish I had more control over the flow of my thoughts. When I’m in a roundabout, though, I generally do feel in control. It’s not always completely clear which lane you’re supposed to be in, but there are usually enough lines and signs to give you a good indication. And as long as you stick to the golden rule of yielding to cars already in the roundabout, you’re in pretty good shape.

Furthermore, on those rare occasions when the logic of the lanes catches you out, you can take advantage of one of the roundabout’s best features: if you miss the exit you need, you can simply go around again and give it a second try.

How often in life do you get a chance to do that? How many times do you wish you had the chance to go back and play a different card or choose a different item on the menu? How many times do you wish you could have taken a second shot at a first date that went wrong? Or better yet, taken a second shot at a first date that went right and led to a relationship that you would have chewed off your foot to escape. Roundabouts give you a second chance, without the need for foot chewing, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

I suppose I couldn’t write about roundabouts without issuing the following challenge: Just try to go through one without hearing the classic Yes song in your head, and struggling to remember the lyrics. Don’t, however, try to figure out what the lyrics mean, because I think that would cross into the realm of “distracted driving.”

But rather than see Jon Anderson’s lyrics as a distraction, I’ll take them as a call to establish a Zen-like oneness with the road, and follow its flow like a leaf in a stream. Yes, Jon, next time I flow through the Apponaug Circulator, “I’ll be the roundabout.”