In a roundabout way
In the time I’ve lived in Park City, I’ve noticed one universal trait of locals we seem to have our own unique unit of measurement for nearly everything.
We don’t talk about inches of snow; we measure the amount in numbers of "epic face shots" or "free refills." Temperatures aren’t referred to in actual degrees. Rather we use adjectives to describe the conditions: The snow is like ‘mashed potatoes.’ Or we explain how hot it is by how many times we’ve had to refill our CamelBaks on a ride. Distance is rarely measured in miles or yards; rather you’ll often hear something described in the number of switchbacks or turns down a slope it would take to get there. We don’t even talk about the wealthy in this town in terms of net worth or where they might fall on any given Forbes list. We say things like "They’re Glenwild rich" or "They’re fly into Heber loaded" to imply their private-jet status.
While it might be far simpler to just respond to someone’s question with, "It’s about 30 degrees outside, we received five new inches of snow and I’m meeting friends who live half a mile from my house," that’s just so I don’t know. So everyone else.
We are nothing if not creative when it comes to how we quantify things.
But perhaps my favorite unit of measurement is the one used to describe how long one has lived in Park City. We don’t talk in decades, years, or even how many new calendars we’ve purchased since taking up residency. We speak in stoplights.
Old timers love to talk about how they’ve lived in Park City since before there were any stoplights. Those who arrived in the ’80s and ’90s can often be heard bragging there was just one stoplight in town when they put down roots here. Even those who moved here at the turn of the century like to say, "Back then, you could count the number of stoplights on one hand."
But what are more recent transplants supposed to say? "There were only 27 stoplights in town when I moved here" doesn’t quite have the same allure.
As I was driving last week, sitting at a red light that wasn’t there when I moved here, I wondered about this very thing. And that’s when it hit me. The newbies are going to have to talk in terms of roundabouts.
You’ll know someone has been in Park City about a decade when they tell you, "When I moved here, there was just one roundabout in town."
And it will be a solid way to describe their length of residency because now these roundabouts are multiplying rapidly. The only thing popping up faster is the number of people who don’t know how to drive in them.
A friend told me she recently witnessed a driver who approached a roundabout, panicked, and just decide to make it a straight-about. "He didn’t even merge into it, he just drove straight though it!" she exclaimed. Others have described how confused people just come to a full stop in the middle, apparently assuming an instruction guide might show up on their GPS.
It seems odd so few people consider roundabouts the adult driving version of a merry-go-round. If you forget to get off when needed, just go around again. You might get dizzy, but you’ll eventually get where you need to go. I always figured that was really the only rule.
But it turns out there’s actually a host of rules for drivers to abide by. These driving laws specific to circular obstacles in the road are actually written and rewritten each year at the International Conference on Roundabouts. (Yes, there really is such a conference held.) Delegates come from various countries and those who attend this annual three-day meeting seem to be the governing body on all things roundabout related.
I’m assuming Park City does not send a representative to this conference. But given our increasing number of roundabouts and drivers who don’t know how to navigate them, we should at least be a nonvoting member who gets copied on the conference summary.
This year’s summary includes a number of tips drivers in Park City might consider useful:
Approach a roundabout in the left lane if turning left, the right lane if turning right.
As you enter a roundabout from a feeder street, yield to all other vehicles already in the roundabout.
For right-hand turns, travel in the right-hand lane and use your turn signal.
For left-hand turns, travel in the left-hand lane and use your turn signal.
For continuing forward, remain in the same lane you entered.
For missed exits, circle around the roundabout again.
Do not stop.
Those seem pretty logical, but somebody felt the need to write them down and host an international conference, so they must be needed.
And unless we want the next unique way we assess our time as a local to include "I moved here back before there were mass graves set up at the third possible exit in all the roundabouts," we should probably try to follow them.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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