Letter: My Year of Driving Knoxvillian-ly

I moved to Knoxville from UCLA (Upper Central Lower Alabama) a year ago. In short order I bought a historic house in a lovely neighborhood and began what now looks like an 18-year renovation project. I have some observations to share about that and about other experiences in the Marble City, Heart of the Valley, Queen City of the Mountains, K-Town, or—as my texting friends refer to it—KV.

My first impression of the people around here was that they must be desperately happy to have jobs because every single receptionist, cashier, grocery bagger, insurance agent, sales representative, thrift store worker, road construction flagger, and all other workers greeted me with smiles and apparent joy to be able to help me. I mentioned this to my sister, a long-time resident here, and she told me it is the famous "East Tennessee friendly" attitude, whether people are at work or not. I have been the constant beneficiary of this generalized disposition and I want to tell y'all that I appreciate that not one person has been obKnoxious to me.

This friendly, helpful manner even extends to strangers on the road. Almost every time I drive KV's streets, I see drivers stop so other drivers can turn left in front of them, change lanes, or enter the traffic stream. Drivers in cars behind the considerate ones do not appear to mind the delay, and this courtesy seems to inspire like behavior in others.


I have also witnessed a prevalent disregard for law and safety on the roads.

You people speed. A lot. Worse, you apparently never learned the meaning of two of the colors in a traffic light. Here, it is evident, green means go; yellow means go a little faster; and red does not necessarily mean stop. Many times, I have watched four cars enter intersections after the light has turned yellow, with a fifth following after the light is red. (Rusty Wallace might want to take his name off some of the cars he has sold, considering how their drivers act.) When I first arrived, my sister carefully catechized me not to start forward right away when my light turned green and to sweep my vision from left to right and then back again before proceeding. This advice, from someone who had been t-boned by a truck driver running a red light, has turned out to be even more helpful than having a GPS.

This crazy city has been built along ridge lines that run from southwest to northeast. Nothing here is straight north, south, east or west, but you all colorfully use those deceptively simple terms when giving directions and that is not helpful for newcomers.

I suspect you take classes in confusing visitors and chuckle at each other's stories about sending folks off with "…over that ridge and then left where the old Sears store used to be." I am not sure I will ever understand how a mall named Knoxville Center managed to locate itself northeast of the belt of highways surrounding the city, over 7-½ miles from downtown.

And what is with those name-changing streets? It seems a bit schizophrenic to have Western become Summit Hill at the intersection where Broadway becomes Henley while, just a few blocks later, Summit Hill becomes Dandridge at the intersection where MLK becomes Hill. There is even a street that changes names five times.

What is with you people? I have been lost so often that I have new squint lines from trying to read street signs in an attempt not to have to call my brother-in-law to describe my surroundings. "I do not know where I am, but I can see a KARM store and a Weigel's."

My GPS, not being from around here, either, urges me to go the wrong direction on one-way streets, mispronounces Blount and IJAMS and suggests I should "keep right at Uht Medical Center." I have pulled over and wept only twice.

A serious issue is the condition of KV's streets. I try to avoid as many bumps, cracks, potholes and work hole covers as possible but that makes me worry that I will be pulled over for weaving. Road repairs are not always a good thing, either. An example is on Sutherland as it approaches Middlebrook Pike. An area was so torn up I was afraid I would lose an axle and a tooth filling simultaneously. Then the lane was barricaded and a work crew came with a jackhammer. I drove by shouting "Hooray! and "Thank you!" The barricade came down, revealing a truly crummy repair.

As the daughter and granddaughter of civil engineers, I am embarrassed for Knoxvillians who accept such shoddy work for their tax dollars, especially when they are having to pay so many wheel realignment bills.

Deanne Charlton