Average Jane

The Corner of Monroe and West Ox

Ever need faith in humanity? Look no further than the intersection of Monroe and West Ox in Herndon, VA.

I was first told about this miraculous cross street of hope by my coworker. We have a similar commute and were comparing notes. “You should take West Ox,” she suggested. “But is there traffic? Because I can’t stand anymore traffic in the mornings…” It was true. I miss my half-mile commute.”There’s not really any traffic. Except for that stop sign.” Ugh. A stop sign? On a main road?!

“Well,” she continued, “It’s not really a stop sign. It’s an imaginary stop sign. People just… stop.” Mmmhmm.

“It’s a really bad intersection, no stop sign, no light. So people just stop to let oncoming traffic turn, and turning traffic onto the main road.” My snarky northern self (newly implanted in the sweet deep south) had doubts.  After all, in the not so distant past, I had a small issue at a controlled intersection that didn’t end so well…

“It gives me faith in humanity every morning,” she said. Since she happens to be the nicest person I’m pretty sure I’ve ever met, I took her sentiment with a carload of salt.

Not until the next day when I attempted this new route, did I appreciate the scope of this phenomenon.

As I came upon the row of stopped cars a mile or so down West Ox, I was irate. She said no traffic. Unless…unless this was it. I waited patiently as car after car wove through the intersection, yielding to its counterpart across the street. It was a dance. A dance of mutual commuter respect. It never would have happened in my old neighborhood. I can’t actually imagine a time I’ve seen anything similar. And it wasn’t one car or another. This was an institutionalized behavior. Some kind of local heuristic.

I pulled up to the intersection as anxious as a first time driver. Am I doing it right? And then a feeling of anti-altruistic pride swelled up in me. I just let that person through. They must be so happy! Look how traffic is actually moving! They can now get to work!

Is that how it started? One nice person letting someone through an impossible intersection? Was it a coincidence that there was a second kind person who witnessed this on that one day and decided to follow suit?

Whatever. Call me sentimental, but every morning it does feel good to drive up to that intersection and see the cogs of suburbia turning for good at the corner of Monroe and West Ox. It does give me faith in humanity. At least a little. At least for a moment each day.


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  1. * Belle says:

    Wow. That’s amazing. I encountered a similar daily phenomenon on my old commute, although to a lesser altruistic degree, to be sure.

    Yay humanity!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  2. * Sam says:

    There are actually a few small towns in England built like this. Contrary to what one might ordinarily expect, they actually tend to observe a statistically-significant decline in frequency of accidents. It is speculated that the uncertainty actually makes us more aware as drivers and makes us respond to the conditions around us rather than our interpretation of the laws and rules which govern driving. For instance: what do you do if you’re at a stop-light, and the light turns green? You go, right? Only you’re responding to the light, not the traffic around you. If someone approaching the same intersection on the cross street didn’t notice his light turn red and still thinks it’s green, you two are going to collide.

    And that’s to say nothing of people who have a different interpretation of the rules. I was nearly hit while walking on foot to work a few months back by a driver, crossing within a cross walk at an intersection with four-way stop signs. The driver squealed on her brakes, honked angrily, pulled up next to me and shouted: “there is a STOP SIGN there, motherfucker!”

    I wanted to swear at her before the window rolled down, but I was too confused by her comment. Um, the stop sign is for YOU, lady….

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  3. * ja says:

    Just for the record, Virginia is NOT the deep south. And I am also a northerner.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  4. * LiLu says:

    @ja Respectfully, I have to partially disagree. There are pieces of Virginia that would definitely qualify as deep South… I’ve seen em. BUT I think Virginia is one of the most diverse states in the country- parts of it are as Northern as my homestate of Massachusetts. It’s kind of cool, actually.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 11 months ago

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