Sunday, July 27, 2008

Driving in Mexico...confusion, but no road rage

When we first arrived in Mexico, I didn't drive much. Jerry is an adventuresome driver and I like to tease him that he was "born to be a Mexican driver." Mexicans, who are sometimes painfully polite and courteous, apparently lose those qualities when they sit behind the wheel of a car. Driving here is an adventure, and despite the fact that I am a confident driver who has had a license since age 16, I was reluctant to take it on. After we moved to Bucerias, it occurred to me how foolish it was to depend on Jerry to go everywhere with me, and so I gradually began to venture out on my own. Now, I am a pretty confident Mexican driver, and I even have a ticket to prove it (running a red light - yes, I did it. The fine was $110 pesos, or a little over $10 USD.). Last week, The Vallarta Tribune, a local English language weekly paper, published the following tips for driving in Mexico. I know this smacks of stereotypes and generalizations, BUT they are ALL TRUE. Really.

  • Turn signals will give away your next move. A real Mexican driver never uses them.
  • Under no circumstances should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, or the space will be filled in by someone else putting you in an even more dangerous situation.
  • Crossing two or more lanes in a single lane change is considered going with the flow.
  • The faster you drive through a red light, the smaller the chance you have of getting hit.
  • Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign. No one expects it and it will inevitably result in your being rear-ended.
  • A right lane closure is just a game to see how many people can cut in line while passing you on the right as you sit in the left lane waiting for the same jerks to squeeze their way back in before hitting the orange construction barrels.
  • Speed limits are arbitrary figures, given only as suggestions.
  • Remember that goal of every Mexican driver is to get there first, by whatever means necessary.
  • It is traditional to honk your horn at cars that don't move the instant the light changes.
  • Just because you're in the left lane and have no room to speed up or move over doesn't mean that the driver behind you won't flash his high beams, thinking you can go faster.
Now here is the amazing part. Despite the fact that drivers cut in front of each other constantly, run stop signs and red lights and often park in the middle of the street, they never get visibly angry. They don't exchange rude hand signs. They don't yell at each other. There is NO road rage.

A few months ago, our friend Salvador came to visit us, parking his car in the middle of our street, even though there was plenty of room for him to pull over to the side. We were sitting on the patio having coffee when we heard someone calling from the front of the house, "Buenos dias. Buenos dias!" We went around to the front. There was a pickup behind Salvador who could not get by. Did he honk? No. Did he yell? No. Did he ram Salvador's car? No. He politely called "Buenos dias" until Salvador moved his car. Then he waved happily and went on his way.

What a place. Reason number 416 "why we love Mexico."

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