To All The Cars I Haven’t Let Out Of The Panera Bread Driveway

I’ve lived at my current address for three years now, and driven to work every weekday of those three years.  I have a 20 mile (ish) commute to downtown Tampa (that’s Florida) from the outskirts of the suburbs.  And there’s a Panera Bread on my commute, about four miles from my house. And in all of this time, I haven’t let a single car pull out of that Panera Bread driveway.

Here’s why.  It’s not a quick, easy answer like “because I’m an asshole.”  I mean, I am — I can be — but that’s not really it.  Here goes.

First, I don’t live on the side of the Tampa metropolitan area with beaches, and attractions, and local businesses.  I live on the side with chain restaurants, and big-box stores, and New Yorkers.  Lots, and lots… and lots of transplanted, upper middle-class, snobby, attitude-riddled New Yorkers.  The kind of people who loo-ove their Panera Bread. So, Tampa’s traffic is terrible.  The roads are just not built to handle the volume of traffic that they carry…so my 20 miles routinely takes me over an hour.  Each way.  Every day.  And, all of those New Yorkers are freaking rude drivers.  I see more people cut off, more lane violations, more ass-hattery in general in one day than I saw in a month of driving in the other three states where I’ve lived.

So put that all together.  In the morning, it takes me about 20 minutes to cover the four miles to the Panera Bread, with the school zones and stoplights on the road.  Not exaggerating, it really takes 20 minutes to cover four miles.  People stop at the Panera Bread for their coffee.  After averaging 5mph, I am usually fuming too hard to let them out, but it’s a non-issue in the morning, because traffic usually is moving well by the driveway.

It’s the evening commute that’s the test.  By the time I’ve reached the Panera Bread, I’ve been in the car for at least 45 minutes already, to drive 16 miles.  Some evenings it’s closer to a solid hour.  And I’m still four miles from home.  And there’s almost always a line of people trying to get out of the Panera Bread.

A bit about Panera Bread.  I’ve tried it…I don’t like it.  It’s the kind of place that appeals to people who want to look like they have class, but don’t really know what gourmet food actually tastes like.  McDonald’s sells coffee that’s every bit as good as Panera Bread…for less money.  Panera Bread throws random “gourmet” ingredients into their sandwiches — like cranberries on a Rueben.  It’s expensive crap for the clueless.

Also, this particular Panera Bread is located after the road has changed from four lanes to two.  And that two-lane road carries the traffic for wayy-yy too many subdivisions, and is always bumper-to-bumper in the evening.  So letting someone out of Panera Bread means holding up the entire line of commuter traffic. And that’s what I’m not willing to do. When I’ve been in the car for nearly an hour, battling stupid, rude, bumper-to-bumper gridlock, and have only four more miles to go, I find that people who have decided they have to get their Panera Bread, and have gotten out of traffic…and want to beg the kindness of commuters to let them back into line…well, I have zero sympathy for them.  I absolutely refuse to delay my return to my family a single minute for people who have chosen to get out of line to get — what did I call it? — expensive crap for the clueless.

It’s not like Panera Bread is a necessary trip.  I let people out of the grocery store driveway.  And bank driveways, and gas stations, and Wal-Mart, and any of a host of businesses that one could feasibly need to stop at during a commute.  I’ll hold up my drive a bit to help out another motorist that had to get gas, or pick up milk and eggs, or deposit their check.  But expensive chain-restaurant crap from Panera Bread?  I draw the line. I’m sure from their spot, in the Panera Bread driveway, looking at my passenger door and the side of my head, studiously not looking at them, I look like an asshole.  And like I said, I can be.  But, they have made the mistake of thinking they’re entitled to being let into traffic again, when in reality they are asking for kindness from a stranger.  I am under no obligation to let them out.  And I don’t.

Epilogue:

I am defeated…utterly and completely.  My crusade against the Panera Bread driveway is in shambles.  A brand new “The Fresh Market” just opened in the same shopping plaza as this Panera Bread, and they have been utterly swamped with curious, suburbanite shoppers. And a sheriff’s deputy has been stationed in the road to direct traffic and let people out of the Panera Bread driveway.

Let.  Them.  Out.

Sigh…

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