Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Do These Things Have in Common?

  • splitting headaches
  • reckless bicyclists
  • dirty dogs
  • careless pedestrians
  • missing traffic lights
  • open-air markets
  • honking horns
  • lack of logic
  • aggressive buses
  • one-way roads
  • broken rules

If you guessed “driving in Chile,” you guessed correctly! I have discovered that this is one area of life here that I simply do not enjoy. I find that the minute I get behind the wheel of the car, the tension mounts and a headache begins to radiate between my temples. It doesn’t help that I don’t know my way around yet, and am usually trying to read road signs while staying alert to all of the above!

Take this morning, for instance.

Today, my usual route to/from my sister’s house is only open on one side of the road - and the open side of the road has cars parked all along one “lane.” The other side has a feria, or open air market, completely closing it off to all traffic. So, an alternate route must be found for returning home. Besides the parked cars, the open side also has parking attendants, stray dogs, pedestrians with strollers and small grocery carts, and vendors moving between stalls. Traffic moves slowly, as those of us behind the wheel of a car try to avoid hitting those who recklessly step in front of the car!

Well, the driving experience didn’t improve as I attempted to reach the neighborhood where I was to pick up the cédulas for everyone in the family (except Pedro, as you will recall from previous posts.) You see, I made the mistake of actually following the traffic indications painted on the roads. As I approached the busy intersection where I needed to turn right, I noticed that the far right lane had “Only Buses” painted in Spanish. Naturally, I moved to the next lane over and realized too late that all the other cars turning right simply ignored the sign and were able to make the turn, while I found myself having to continue straight and find a place to turn around!

Turning around brought me to the road I was trying to avoid in the first place. This particular road is divided, with two lanes on either side. During most of the day, two lanes go in one direction and the other two lanes go the opposite way. But from the hours of 7 am – 10 am, all four lanes go in just one direction. I reached the road at 9:59 am, so I decided to pull over and turn on my emergency flashers while I waited to see if the direction of traffic would change. 10:01 … 10:05 … 10:07 … and no traffic change. So I decide to try to turn around yet again. By the time I reached the corner where I had originally wanted to turn right, I finally saw the traffic going in both directions. What craziness!

Needless to say, I am not too enthusiastic about hitting the roads again tomorrow. But I know that I must practice in order to overcome my nerves, so … wish me - and the dogs and cars and bicyclists and pedestrians who come across my path - well!

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