Wednesday, March 16, 2005

mexican driving

Mexicans are famous for their laid-back attitude, and rightfully so. There’s not often a lot of urgency here in getting things done or getting places on time (like English class!), and the “mañana, mañana” approach is both widely practiced and widely tolerated.

Something seems to happen to that laid-back attitude, however, when Mexicans get behind the wheel of a car. Suddenly, they’re transformed into impatient drivers, speeding and passing recklessly on the highways, honking aggressively in town the second a light turns green or making angry gestures at other drivers or pedestrians who slow them down. It’s really a remarkable change, especially when you compare Mexican drivers to Mexican pedestrians, who generally amble along quite slowly, casually taking in the sights around them, waiting patiently to cross a street.

I guess there just must be something about the automobile that makes people, regardless of culture, aggressive and impatient. Of course, that doesn’t go for old folks, who in any culture seem to approach driving with the careful patience of Mexican pedestrians. It’s a strange machine, the car, and it does strange things to us. Someone should do a study or something.

Also, the driving here is quite different, which might explain some of the Mexicans that drive in the states. When you pass someone, the left turn blinker is used to signal that you are passing in the same manner that we use it. But on the frequently traveled backroads that have only two lanes, the left blinker also signals: "Look, I have a slow VW, and you can pass me, there is no one coming." After the person passes, he honks his horn, a slight honk. If you are passing, you can also signal to people behind you that it is okay to pass by leaving your left blinker on and staying in the other lane. This is quite useful on those windy roads here in Oaxaca.

Things in the car that are used more here: the horn and the hazards. The horn is the most important part of the car here; while the hazards are used when going over the million speed bumps that exist on the roads (roads apart from the toll roads). You can be speeding along, and without any notice, a speed bumb appears from nowhere. Now there are instances where there are too many signs. Every 100 meters there will be a sign to remind you that one is coming.

Every city or town has at least a speed bumb (tope in spanish)every 400 meters. Between Mexico City and Huajuapan, a 6 hour drive, there must be at least 60 speed bumbs. But of course, there are several differ types of speed bumbs that I have seen and classified: the vibrator; the ripple-type;, the over-the-easy (which is not really a bumb, more a hump); the typical speed bumb; the table-top speed bumb, which can range and size, but has a slope, then is straight for a meter or two, then drops off; the ball, which is a line of metal balls; my favorit is a pile of dirt that someone has placed in the road, then has written tope next to it,then there is a curb-like bumb that is very dangerous; finally the u shaped, which is actually more like a pothole.

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