Canadians really love driving the open road in the spring.
We want to forget clutching the wheel in white outs, spinning through freezing rain, and snarling in frustration trapped behind a lumbering snow plow. But do we drive well? How does Canadian driving compare to other nations?
Now in Italy, car drivers know the general location of the accelerator and the horn. (Everything else appears irrelevant!) Cars routinely stop by simply running into each other’s rear ends.
Traffic cops in Italy are regarded as rather entertaining street mimes, while ordinary pedestrians take on the aggressive traits of gladiators.
I watched an elderly gentleman, carrying a neatly rolled up umbrella, step off the curb directly into eight lines of traffic on a main street in Rome. Brakes squealed. Horns blared. Lines of cars slammed to a halt as the man strolled (strolled!) across the road. When he got to the other curb, he turned, gracefully raised his umbrella, then smacked it down on the hood of the vehicle nearest him. No warrior could have signalled victory better.
Cairo also approaches driving in a unique way.
I was racing along in a rather rusty cab (unnervingly, every light on its dashboard was lit up!) in the heart of the Egyptian capital. On all sides, ancient WWII trucks packed with camels jockeyed for road space against tiny motor scooters (each loaded with six passengers and a cage of chickens) and oil burning old busses. My driver suddenly took both hands off the wheel without slowing down for even a second. Then he folded them and bowed deeply out his open window. Turns out he saluted all the major mosques along our route in this fashion.
I got fairly religious myself on that particular taxi ride!
I’m not saying we Canadians don’t have our own little traffic quirks, especially in spring.
You had to watch the expression on the face of a police officer as he listened to one local lady indignantly explain that, of course, she hadn’t bothered to signal because “everybody in town knows I always turn left here at 4:30 on Tuesdays!”
Then there was the large Irish setter spotted driving a Kia down Hwy 2. Well, it seems a small human was actually somewhere underneath the setter, but as the gentleman expressed it, “Dog really loves to sit on my knee when we go driving in nice weather, so I like to let him.”
Now that it’s spring time again in Canada, it might be a good idea to review a driving fact or two.
Yield signs on our major access ramps are not just amusing suggestions. Solid double yellow lines on the road seldom indicate street art. Signal lights are generally more effective when actually turned on.
We brake for spring around here.