What to make of it all
Allowing for seasonality, we automobile drivers share the roads here with bicyclists, motorcyclists, mopeders, joggers, runners, walkers, power walkers, rollerbladers, deer, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, guinea hens, turkeys, the occasional skittering chipmunk, voles, sometimes a muskrat, and crows. The latter will tell you they are there on business, doing a job no one else wants to do.
If you rank all of these according to their relative abilities to get along with drivers, dangerous differences reveal themselves. This is, of course, a very personal hierarchy, having only to do with me when I'm driving. But, as with every other opinion you or I hold, we are convinced it has broad resonance. Still, you may propose a different hierarchy, though I'd be surprised. But, that's fine.
Although they are noisy, motorcyclists are easy for motorists to get along with, mainly because they are so nimble, and they don't take up much space (except when they hog a parking space that was meant for a car). Plus, because they always go speeding by, they are quickly out of the way.
Chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, and the crows that attend to the flattened cadavers are generally no more than spreading stains upon the roadways of life. Plus, they've figured out that any Vineyard road has the lethal possibilities of a Baghdad thoroughfare, so they are vigilant. Unfortunately, they're also slow and indecisive at times. So, the toll rises.
Guinea hens, for all their noisy protests, hurry out of the way when they notice an automobile approaching. Bicyclists, who are given to condescending glares, also move over, albeit huffily. (An aside: How can anyone dressed the way bicyclists dress be condescending?) Anyway, I suppose guinea hens and cyclists must share this rung on the latter. But, for the record, the guinea hens' cultivated appetite for ticks has earned them a place of some veneration in our society, which certainly distinguishes them from cyclists.
Joggers, walkers, and power walkers aren't so bad, except the ones who refuse to move off the pavement when the road is narrow and filled with cars. For instance, approaching the curve in the Panhandle Road, as it bewilderingly becomes Music Street, the motorist must remain in his lane. The walker insists on occupying part of that lane. The motorist must come to a near stop as he proceeds by the walker (or couple), forcing them to step off the road onto the verge. Affronted, they glare. Astonished, he glares back, as the unseen car approaches, traveling too fast, in the oncoming lane. A calamity averted. Some feathers ruffled. Walkers have an air of asphalt entitlement that is irritating, but no big deal.
Runners, especially threesomes that spread themselves abreast across an entire travel lane, are among the most exasperating of the offender population, but I put mopeders and rollerbladers in that same category - the annoying-as-hell category. Whether they are wobbling (mopeder) or weaving (rollerblader), they lay claim to precious space on the pavement, and there is no surplus of space. But the worst thing is the sense that mopeders and rollerbladers are just one patch of sand, one rock, one collection of pine needles, or one spray of leaves and sticks away from the calamity that will set the table for the oncoming motorist. You just want to get safely by these people.
Dead or alive, skunks are a pain because you certainly don't want to hit one. In fact, you don't even want to drive by or over a skunk carcass. Sometimes I try to straddle them when they are wasted smack in the middle of my lane, but there's no escaping the smell.
As we have documented in these pages, deer have gotten beyond all efforts to control their population. They have begun to lay waste to the automobile population in increasing numbers, and never mind what they are doing in the gardens. Nothing much good to say about deer, except "venison."
Still, top honors go to the turkeys. They resemble the runners in the way they conduct their business in a gaggle that assumes much more of the roadway than it deserves. But, they're worse. For instance, as you approach, they never hurry to clear the way for your car. Instead, the procession slows. And inevitably one or two of the birds decide they've forgotten something on the side of the road they came from, so they have to go back. Or maybe they forget which way they were going. Then the tom stops to put on a show, and the others gather round to admire him. What's so tragic about all this is that both lanes of traffic stop while these numbskulls figure out which way they're going, so the crows never get a chance to practice their necrophagous arts on this extraordinarily infuriating species.