Tupelo, MS - Initial excitement over the first four-way stop sign to be added to the Mississippi roadways has turned to mounting frustration with every passing day.
It appears that at some point after the installation and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Haley Barbour, "things just went all to hell," says local business owner Bart "Burt" Scroggins. Scroggins, along with other eyewitnesses, say that the problems began mounting when three cars pulled up to the intersection at approximately the same time. Judith Elmers, a homemaker from Ripley, said that the three drivers "pretty much sat there, just staring at each other when one of (them) should have just gone ahead and went."
With steadily growing frequency the new intersection had cars backed up sometimes twenty-five deep. Normally traffic like this is not seen in a state where only thirty percent of people own a car, and roads tend to be little more than suggestions outlined by foot traffic.
The problem with this particular intersection seems two-fold. First, many drivers are confused by not knowing the "rules of the road", as it were, regarding the stop-and-go order at a four-way stop sign. Secondly, those that do understand that "someone" ultimately has the right of way typically have problems distinguishing their right from their left in the first place.
Marc "Mark" Peters admits that some of the state's drivers don't have the best textbook driving education. The self employed twenty-seven-year-old indicated that right of way in most parts of the state "just went to the fella with the biggest truck."
"We didn't do much traffic (learning) in school," recalls Peters. "Mainly we just worked on our fightin', eatin', and screwin', ya'll know - the ‘Three R's'."
Adding to the congestion, a new Super Wal-Mart has been added to the commerce row that already included a one-stop shop gas station, a bingo hall, and the local flea market which is open Thursday through Sunday.
"We put this four-way stop sign in place to help deal with the congestion on our roadways," says Tupelo Mayor Larry "Larry" Otis. "And for the record, we haven't had a chicken truck incident since the intersection went up."
Suggestions to alleviate the problem did not immediately provide a solution. At a local City Council meeting, concerned citizens expressed their grief. Ward 3 representative John Jacob Jingle Hymer Smith suggested that instructions be included along side of the stop sign, but that proposal was met with a chorus of laughter, heckling, and a cat-call from his first cousin Martha Jacob Jingle Hymer Smith.
With no resolution in sight it appears that the good people of the Magnolia state will continue to be held down by "the man" and his damned fancy red, octagonal demon signs.