Back home I never took taxis. I come from a culture of public transport and the subway covers the whole city. The buses are clean(ish), generally punctual, and they always stop at traffic lights. This means that I’m a terrible Driver and I have never owned a car, but it is ok because I never needed one.
In Latin America a lot of people are surprised that I refuse to purchase a car and still insist to take the subway everywhere. Basically if it’s within the city limits and I can’t get there on public transport without having to walk more than 10 minutes from the station then I’m not interested. “But you are rich!” they say, “why don’t you buy a car?” Probably because I am not rich. I suppose that, compared to a lot of the locals who are on minimum wage then yes, I’m doing ok, but I’m certainly not rich. But I digress. Besides the pollution, I find that cars are an unnecessary expense. My subway commute costs less than £1 each way and I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space.
However, the one thing that worries me the most about Driving in Latin America are other drivers. I’ve been told that, for this part of the world, the locals are excellent drivers. I’ve visited other places in the region and I’m inclined to believe it but, as a very unconfident driver myself I can do without the aggravation of people refusing to use their indicators and driving at 120 mph on the slow lane on the motorway. Whenever a kind soul gives me a lift I swear that we can’t move for more than 100 metres without my driver rolling down the window and yelling a bunch of colourful expletives or honking like a madman. I’ve even seen people reversing on the motorway without a care in the world, for goodness sake. It’s been years since I was last behind the wheel, but I’m pretty sure that reversing on the motorway is frowned upon by faithful followers of the Highway Code.
The other day I was quietly strolling in my neighbourhood, along a one way, fairly quiet street. I always carefully stick to walking on the Pavement and I triple check before I cross the road. You’d think that getting run over on the pavement under those circumstances would be almost impossible, but then you’d be wrong. I noticed a big SUV approaching and indicating left, then quickly accelerating, gaining traction and turning right towards an apartment building’s garage door not 10 metres away from me, a maneuver that required him to briefly drive over the pavement. “What a twerp,” I thought. Once I figured that said twerp would no longer be a danger to myself or other passers-by I kept walking. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. Apparently the twerp had driven into the wrong garage and was now fiercely reversing back onto the pavement to reach the road, revving up his engine. I heard the engine. I jumped out of the way. He braked sharply.
I happen to be completely fluent in Spanish. Let’s be honest, having a smaller language barrier in comparison to other foreigners is a blessing (I’m saying smaller because the regional variety of Spanish is really not what I’m used to, but I still get by quite well). It can also be a curse if you are having a bad day and almost get run over. If you tell someone to go fuck himself in Spanish he’ll understand you. Yes, I told him to go fuck himself. This led to a very heated exchange with him calling me the local equivalent of a “bloody foreigner” and me telling him to go back to driving bumper cars at the funfair before overcompensating with a big boy car.
Eventually I think we both realised that we had better things to do with our time and walked/drove away in a huff. I will say this, while that guy was a danger behind the wheel he’s definitely not the only example of atrocious driving I’ve seen over here. A pedestrian crossing is always an adventure.