by Hank Leukart
October 5, 2005
The I’m-Not-Driving- in-the-Correct-Direction Drinking Game
You can’t turn left in San Francisco. Ever.
The I’m-Not-Driving-in-the-Correct-Direction Drinking Game
AN FRANCISCO, Ca. — The city of San Francisco believes that left turns are evil. The city feels fine about gay marriage, has no problems with hills so steep that once each year, a runaway parked car kills someone, and even celebrates stupidity. But forget about making any left turns in the city limits — the city’s made sure that’s impossible.
Take a quick look at this map of San Francisco. First, as you can see by the blue arrows, almost every street in the city is a one way street. Fine. This can be frustrating, but New York has a similar design, and it’s not so bad. Second, you can’t tell from this map, but almost all the major arterials (Van Ness Ave., California St., and Geary Blvd.) prohibit left turns at almost every intersection. To illustrate what a nightmare this can be, let’s play the I’m-Not-Driving-in-the-Correct-Direction Drinking Game in this next example. Each time you’re forced to drive in a direction that’s not correct, you have to drink a beer. Go!
Let’s imagine that you want to drive to a friend’s wedding in the Presidio (the green area in the northwestern area of the city). You’re south of the city, driving north on 101. Look at the map. As you drive up Van Ness Ave., which doubles as 101 in the city, you’d like to turn left so that you can drive west. Drink a beer — left turns are mostly not allowed on Van Ness. Fine. You decide to turn right on Geary Blvd so that you can make a U-turn and then begin driving west. Drink a beer — Geary is one-way in that area, so you can’t make a U-turn. Fine. You decide to turn left on another street off Geary so you can turn left again and finally head west. Drink a beer — you can’t do that either, because Geary Blvd. also doesn’t allow left turns. Fine. You turn right and hit Market St. (which, thankfully, is a two-way street). Drink a beer — you’re driving southwest when you want to be driving northwest. By now, you’ve had four beers. You’re driving drunk and you crash into a tree. Congratulations. Believe me; I’m not exaggerating. Try it sometime.
Admittedly, I don’t live in San Francisco. Maybe there are secrets to making evil left turns that I don’t know. I’m guessing they think this design makes traffic move much faster because no one can ever turn left, decreasing the amount of stopped traffic. But in the end, it’s net-benefit must be lost; people simply drive around aimlessly because they can’t drive in the direction they want to go. It’s like a bad roller-coaster ride that never stops. And never turns left.
In fact, I did finally arrive at my friend’s wedding in the Presidio, which was beautiful. Immediately upon arriving at the wedding, the groom’s mother gave me a mission: make her beautiful, blond, Swedish niece fall in love with me because, apparently, I would be perfect for her. Apparently, the only obstacle standing in my way was her boyfriend — who looked like a European male model — and was from Europe — and was at this very wedding — and was wearing an Italian pinstriped suit direct from Milan — and with whom she had been dating for six years. Yes, apparently my puppetmasters had decided that my only hope for true love was this completely unattainable and attached girl. Apparently others think I am as pathetic as I think I am.
Needless to say, I spent the wedding trying to stay out of her boyfriend’s way, even though I kept being not-so-subtly reminded that my mission required me to break up a six-year relationship. By the end of the wedding, I had successfully completely avoided her — which wasn’t so hard, since her face was mostly stuck to her European male model boyfriend’s mouth — when by some bewildering manipulation, she was sitting next to me at a table, with her boyfriend. The next thing I remember was us shamelessly flirting with her boyfriend sitting right there. We agreed to meet next time I visited Stockholm (i.e. never), I jumped into my clown car (a rented P.T. Cruiser), and drove as fast as I could away from her boyfriend. But I wasn’t that afraid of him. He couldn’t possibly follow me. After all, you can’t turn left in San Francisco, and I made an illegal left turn to escape him and return to my hotel. WB