As a 20-year veteran of Morristown traffic, any trip around the Green conjures Clark Griswold's voice in my head. He's crying, "Look kids: Big Ben, Parliament!" as the Griswolds sit trapped in the endless loop of a U.K. traffic circle, unable to exit through more experienced navigators.
The Green, as Morristown regulars know and newbies are slow to learn, is a park-like setting, rich in history, and basically a square version of the Jersey traffic circle. It is surrounded by four lanes of road, all going one-way. The two inner lanes will drive you all around the Green should you choose to drive in circles (or squares). The two outer lanes will exit to other roads, either west to Route 24, east to South Street, north or south to Route 202.
Morristown is always growing, doubling in population every weekday as shopping, law offices and the courthouse draw tens of thousands of visitors to Morristown—all newbies to the Morristown square that is more than just four sides.
I know this from experience, living here, working here, but how would a visitor know? A GPS would do the trick, but I'm not sure satellite technology captures the subtle nuances of the Green. The GPS lady scolding you over and over to "keep left, keep left" can only leave you wondering when you are in the thick of it — how far left? Almost every approach is a single lane or two, and then all of a sudden you are the yellow car in Pole Position, jockeying for the front spot.
Once the GPS has failed, most are simply left to Griswold themselves around and around until they figure out which lane they should be in—or choose the maddeningly popular option of stopping traffic to cut over to the lane they need and to heck with anyone behind them—resulting in emotions that are more Gibson and less Griswold.
However you navigate, rounding the Green can be painfully slow. But those who don't really know how to navigate the Green are only a part of the problem; those who know exactly how are equally to blame.
Sometimes you know just by looking at her that the woman five cars in front of you is in the wrong lane, and will block traffic as long as it takes to get into the right one. Those veteran drivers on the Green, rather than wait patiently, will get into the wrong lane to avoid being stuck behind Wrong Lane Lady and, of course, cut over when the light turns green. The result: newbie gridlock or instant drag race—if Veteran Green Driver Guy tries to pass Other Veteran Green Driver Guy with equal or greater desire to not be stuck behind Wrong Lane Lady.
I remember a time when I would crave a hot dog from the hot dog lady at the Green, iconic in her own right to Morristown. I could jump into my car, drive, park, eat and go. Fifteen minutes and $3 well spent. Sadly, those days are over. Today, I have to calculate drive time, park time and getaway time—even though I live and work just as far from the Green as I always have. I allow at least three trips around the Green at a turtle's pace, a cost of 15 minutes in the search for parking (another issue altogether), and time to wait in a line of hot dog lovers that were never really there before, and the trip back to work.
Alas, it does not fit into my schedule as it once did. Hot dogs are now a treat and not the staple in my diet they once were, which, for my personal longevity, is probably a good thing.
But it's also a sign of the times and growth of Morristown. The solution? A few painted arrows here and there would be a big help for visitors in Morristown, specifically to the Green. Maybe one day we will see them but, for now, leave yourself some time, and try and remember your basic driver's ed. rules: inner lanes turn to inner lanes and outer to outer. And if you're lucky enough to find a parking spot near the hot dog lady, enjoy your lunch and tell her I miss her.