Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Raging road-aholic

I don't really have a great track record when it comes to rental cars. Not driving them, but driving behind them. Especially around these parts where the roads are built for 1.5 cars rather than 2, or 2 cars with half an inch between them, and overtaking or meeting other cars requires a hearty mixture of self-confidence, bravery and prayer to whatever higher power you happen to rely on.

And I am completely aware of the irony of me writing to moan about tourists, when, at the end of the day it's them who pay my wages, but still. I can't complain to their faces, now can I? Can I? Please?

There is just something about the tell-tale sticker on the rear window of the car in front of me that immediately makes my shoulders creep up to my ears, my blood pressure climb up a notch or five, and my knuckles turn a lovely shade of white as I grip my steering wheel while muttering aggressively under my breath.

Yes, I know you're visiting this country and while doing so, contributing to the economy, but it doesn't mean you get the right to drive at the steady speed of 30km/h, in the middle of the road thus blocking anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck behind you from even attempting overtaking. And every so often you see a sheep, or the sea, or a thatched cottage, a pile of turf on the bog, of all of the above, skid to a halt (okay, 'skid' is an overstatement considering you were crawling along to start with), leap out of the car (which is still positioned in the middle of the road), and start taking photographs!!!

I would like you to know, that as I'm writing this I am in fact, working myself up to rage. I would love to know how many accidents are caused every year by people either plowing into a car stopped in a corner or in the middle of the road, or in frustration overtaking in a place where you probably shouldn't but can't take looking at the heads turning as if they were at Wimbledon while the car sways from side to side on the road.

I was stuck behind a Nissan Micra not that long ago. Just seeing one of them makes me annoyed. I don't know
anyone who owns one, apart from car rental companies. The image it evokes is one of a middle aged European, usually German or french (Americans tend to go for the biggest car available even if it means shaving off the wing mirrors while trying to avoid being involved in a head on collision with an oncoming bus). Spanish and Italian people I find, in general good drivers for these roads. I would imagine the Greeks being the same way. A nice mixture of overconfidence and disregard of rules and the welfare of yourself and your rental car.

Now, this Micra in question was travelling along at a break-neck speed of 20km/h. After being stuck behind it for what felt like an eternity, I decided to overtake, as that part of the road was wide enough for me to do so, and there wasn't any oncoming traffic. i don't know what people usually do when they see someone behind them indicating that they're going to overtake. Me, I just carry on as normal, the decision to overtake lies with the overtaker, they have obviously deemed this to be the best moment to do so and there is absolutely no involvement required on my part. The driver of this little Micra decided otherwise. As I was going past, he had come to the conclusion that the road was too narrow for me to overtake, and steered his car into the bog. Seeing this from my rear-view mirror, I pulled over and went to see if they were okay.

I was met with an irate Frenchman and his wife, who started screaming at me telling me I had driven them off the road. Now, I can assure you, this wasn't the case. The man then proceeded to tell me how all Irish people drive like lunatics, how he had been driven off the road three times during his holiday and how he was never going to drive in Ireland ever again. As I tried, in vain, to explain to him how it wasn't necessary for him to drive off the road when someone was overtaking, the man launched into what I can only imagine being an extremely derogatory outburst in french. I held up my hands and walked away. I could still hear him as I got into my car and drove off.

I must admit, I did feel a little bit sorry for him. The roads here are something to get used to, I know it took me some time to be confident in the knowledge that even if I do meet my neighbour on the road, neither one of us is going to lose mirrors or paintwork.

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