Saturday, May 3, 2008
Driving in DF - Adventures in Mortality
(Okay, not the classiest graphic to pull off Google to illustrate the traffic reality of DF, but seriously, typical. And I think the thought bubble is just as accurate- "F***, it's a three-day weekend and I want to go get trashed!!" For me, the measure of my progress at learning Spanish wasn't the usual benchmark of dreaming in Spanish, but rather swearing like mad in Spanish in my head...often while driving here in fact.)
My friend, Ana, called me the other day, elated. "Guess what? I got a driver's license!" That she was pursuing a driver's license was news to me "...Yeah, I went with my boyfriend and my sister and we all got one!"
"That's great, Ana! What did you have to do?"
"There was a test, we did really bad. But they still gave it to us. I don't even know how to drive!"
And there you have it, my friends. DF is a seething mass of narrow, one-way streets, hidden stop signs, blind corners and illegally parked cars populated by drivers who don't know how to drive and insane taxi drivers. But no worries, mom!
Let's start with some basic survival tips:
1. Drive a tank. Not possible? Too bad...
2. Drive like a maniac. This may some counterintuitive. In the U.S., we have this informal thing called the "Rules of the Road" that is basically a set of assumptions like if we arrive to a stop sign at the same time, the person on the right will proceed first. It's not that Mexicans don't have a shared set of assumptions, they're just different ones. Really, they're a set of things you can't assume such as: That the other drivers know how to drive. That they will use their turn signals. That they will stop at stop signs and red lights. That they will go the correct direction on one-way streets. Basic stuff like that. So, if you make a very strong stop at a stop sign, you see, the guy behind you was not expecting to do that, so he might quite rightfully rear-end you. Kind of coast through if possible. And when you're at an unmarked intersection, just keep inching the nose of your car forward until you're blocking them and they have to let you pass.
3. Lay on the horn. Even if you can see that they are boxed in and can't do anything to get out of the way. DF is far too quiet and it really helps.
4. Wear a seatbelt. If you have one in your car. Not because of a strong belief in its power to protect you, but because the polis will now pull you over and charge a mordida. Ditto on talking on your cell.
5. Tie a rosary around the rear-view mirror and that should pretty much protect you from any traffic accident. Taxi drivers might want to double up with a shiny Virgen of Guadalupe sticker as well. The Playgirl bunny sticker probably doesn't hurt either.
Postscript: This article from the L.A. Times says it better than I ever could. With the bonus of research, interviews and historical context. Buenisimo.
Post-Postscript: The photo above is from a blog rant about traffic before three-day weekends, which I will offer up as Mexican Spanish 101 for this week as it correctly utilizes in just three paragraphs these key expressions: No mames, pinche, desmadre, putamadre, cabron, pedo, chupar, vete a la verga and chinga su madre (which you, FYI, should NOT use). Let the learning begin. Click here.