I sometimes joke that driving around lakeside is a lot like testing one’s skills in those old arcade auto play stations or a new-fangled video game, only the hazards here are real and points count on a life-or-death scale.
With my old wagon marooned in the mechanic’s shop for major repairs, I’ve been hopping on buses or bumming rides over the last few weeks, enjoying relief from the every-day vexations of being behind the wheel. It’s been refreshing to slow down my pace, gaze out the windows and placidly watch the world go by instead of tensing up and cursing a blue streak over every encounter with some roadway nuisance.
There’s the local scourge of topes, those odious speed bumps that crop up out of nowhere, unmarked or invisible under faded cautionary paint. We know they’re a necessary evil to keep wild drivers in check, but wouldn’t it be nice if they conformed to design standards, making them effective, but gentler on your car’s suspension and less likely to cause whiplash as you hurtle over the hump?
How about regular epidemics of inverse topes, a.k.a. baches (potholes)? Why do they seem to grow to the size of minor lunar craters before authorities wise up and send out work crews to perform slapdash patch-ups?
Nothing makes me quite as antsy as getting stuck in a long line of cars behind a bus whose driver stopped smack in the way rather than pulling off to the road to pick up or disgorge passengers. I snarl more if I see he’s done it only because some dimwit parked right at the bus stop.
The same anxiety applies when inconsiderate bozos – including local police – hold up traffic to make illegal left-hand turns off the highway into downtown Ajijic via Calle Colón. And when major thoroughfares are blocked by garbage trucks making their rounds at peak commuting hours. You have to wonder what brilliant government boss set up the collection schedule.
I despise drivers afflicted by tunnel vision, like boneheads who are oblivious to cars coming up from behind as they suddenly grind to a halt to make a turn, and then piddle around getting off the road. Do they think rear view mirrors are just there for adornment?
If you have to slam on the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision, you and your passengers can be caught by surprise, lurching forward at the waist and snapping back into an upright position in what my Mexican pals call el saludo chino (the Chinese salute). Ouch!
There are other latent dangers: distracted drivers yakking or texting on cell phones, or chewing the fat with passengers, complementing their conversation with effusive off-the-wheel hand gestures, or carelessly riding around with pets or kiddies in their laps. Delivery guys and travelers riding motorcycles, scooters and bicycles who unexpectedly whizz past you on the passenger side, often as not just when you’re about to slide over to make a turn. Disoriented city slicker tourists barreling through the village headed against traffic on one-way streets. And morons with no compunction about driving in the wrong direction on parallel service roads.
Scarier still are the out-to-lunch pedestrians who tend to walk right behind your bumper at the very moment you hit reverse to back out of a parking space.
I abhor parking pigs, like folks who hog two or three full spaces by leaving big gaps behind and in front of adjacent vehicles. And those who double park while doing quick shopping or banking errands, especially annoying when you notice there’s an empty spot at the curb just inches away. Or the ones squeezed into tiny spots right at the corners of Ajijic’s narrow streets, making it impossible for others to navigate tight turns. How come the bigger the car, the more likely the driver will pull in at an angle so that the rear end sticks out half way into the driving lane?
Now that my car is running again and a new year has begun, I feel compelled to assume a more relaxed and positive attitude, so motoring stresses don’t get under my skin.
I keep in mind that fellow expats have quit gripeing about getting harassed and coerced for bribes by traffic cops.
I notice that many drivers seem to be more courteous when traffic signals are on the fritz, stopping to let other cars slide into traffic and pedestrians safely cross the road.
And, oh how lucky I am to live somewhere where winters are mild and memories of scraping ice off the windshield, putting chains on the tires, and rocking my way out of a paralyzing snow bank are things of the past.