Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tailgating

Since moving here I have tried to adopt the 'right' attitude about driving in Sicily so that I would never let this obvious annoyance 'get to me'. I mean, there is no way you can change the way these people drive. It is just a reality of living here. They are insane, so you better just accept it. Why beat myself over the head, tear my hair out, holler, shake fists, rant and rave, make obscene gestures, and the like, when the only thing such reactions accomplish is more aggravation and negative energy than the incidents themselves? So, I have molded myself into one of those extremely alert and (mostly) very calm drivers that no one or nothing can bother, as long as no real dangers to me and my family are involved. I really try to uphold this philosophy when driving and I am sure I am not the first expat to say this.

But I do have my lapses, especially when alone. Can you blame me when the guy driving in front of me is going literally 15 miles an hour in a 45 mph stretch of road because he is having a lively, fully engaged conversation, hand movements, eye contact and all, with the pal sitting next to him, having no thought of the line of cars impatiently trailing him? Such scenarios are common. Extremely slow drivers here usually fall into one of two categories: those obliviously talking on cell phones, or eldery people who are probably scared out of their minds to be surrounded by such unpredictible and unaware (or uncaring is probably a better word) fellow drivers.

So there stuck behind this slow driver, as I felt my annoyance level reach what felt like an all time high, I found myself getting closer and closer to the car in front of me. Yes, I was blatantly tailgating. It was not so much the ridiculously slow speed that was bothering me, it was more the fact that he did not care one little bit for saftey or general road etiquette and the effects of his driving style on the world around him. So, my only recourse was blatant tailgating while muttering to myself 'can you see me yet you idiot, pull over and let us pass if you are unable to drive at a normal speed and have a conversation with your pal at the same time!°?&%#!!!!'

And then I was reminded how none of this matters and how ridiculous I was being when I was terrified by a different sort of uncaring driver that shook me to my senses. I am talking about the other extreme kind of driver commonly encountered here in Sicily -- the excessive speeders. This guy was no doubt just as annoyed as I was by the slow going car, but rather than stew and simmer about it, he decided to act. I heard the reving engine before I saw I was being passed by a car from behind at what seemed like 70 mph. No matter that the oncoming traffic on this two lane, two way road was right there in front of us. Yes, this was a near miss head on collosion. I don't even think the slow guy noticed the almost accident that took place in front of us as he was still so engrossed in his conversation. My heart skipped a beat, I backed off the slow guy and could do nothing more than shake my head back and forth in disbelief. These drivers never stop to annoy, baffle and unfortunatley scare me to death almost every day of my Sicilian life.

And then suddenly the slow guy pulled over and slowly I, along with all the cars behind me, picked up speed heading into the city as if nothing had happened.



7 comments:

  1. Well said! This happens to me almost every single day. In fact, it's been so long since I've driven anywhere *except* Sicily I've almost stopped considering such behavior to be abnormal. I'm a little worried I won't know how to drive anymore when we visit the USA...and I'm terrified about the brand-new system we're going to have to learn in Japan. (Ack! They drive on the left!) So, thanks for putting it back into perspective: Crazy. Dangerous. Uncaring. This is why I'm always scared to pass!

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  2. Oh my, what a story! Insightful for someone living outside of Italy - I am so glad you and everyone stayed safe. Thank you for sharing that detailed moment of what life is like in Sicily ... xo

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  3. Still trying to adjust to driving here...wondering if I will ever be able to get behind the wheel here without muscles tensing and stomach clenching? Glad you made it home safely.

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  4. Frustrating, yes, I'm certain. Pretty universal, though, except perhaps on the motor-way, especially in Germany. Glad to hear all escaped unscathed. I hope to be driving on your roads next fall when I visit a friend in Catania. It will be interesting to see what my attitude and reaction is at that point. So far most of my Italian experience is in Umbria and Tuscany, although the Centrale F.S. in Milano was my beginning and end point with my rental car. Milan was a hoot! I firmly believe Seattle is a great training ground -:)

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  5. Not surprised that you other islanders have had similar experiences!

    Emily! So exciting that you will having more driving (and other) adventures in Japan!

    Chuck, you are right crazy drivers are everywhere, but let me know your reaction after your visit next fall. I would be curious to hear a 'fresher' perspective on the road situaton!

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  7. Hi Emily,
    haha your post about driving in Sicily made me laugh, I live in Marsala in western Sicily and there's plenty of careless, rude and aggressive driving here too.
    One thing that really drives me nuts is that sometimes the kids here in scooters will literally hitch on to a car, by hooking their arm to the car's window and talk, this while the car driver and kid on scooter drive very slowly and take up more than one lane...if you blow your horn or somehow tell them to stop and let you pass, they glare at you hatefully...I'm like really? Seriousely? Its incredibily dangerous and rude too. No one else matters, just them. This drives me crazy, and the rude American in me emerges, I start honking my horn, and saying things that are not so nice. As for the driving style, I have adopted their style and I drive pretty aggressively too.
    I love the Catania area, I used to have to come there every month for work and loved visiting the little towns near Mt. Etna, Nicolosi, Acireale, Riposto, Giarre...so pretty. Have a nice weekend and thanks for the chuckle :) Deika.

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