Thursday, July 06, 2017

moving to mexico -- road hazards

Driving in Mexico is a joy. Especially for those of us who are adrenaline junkies.

To enjoy the experience, all you need to do is to be flexible enough to learn new road customs. Not necessarily, new laws. Customs and laws are seldom the same thing. In fact, most customs tend to contradict law.

Here is a perfect example. Up north, we are trained to stop at stop signs. Full stops. Custom and law coincide.

There are a handful of stop signs in the little village by the sea where I live. But no one stops at them unless there is traffic. Drivers clear to the left and the right, and then barrel right through. Stopping is an invitation for the car following to end up in your trunk.

Then, there is the multiple choice test we all face every day. The car in front of you has his left turn signal on. What is he telling you?

1) I am turning left.
2) The way ahead is clear; it is safe to pass me.
3) I spent several years living in Miami Beach. We Floridians drive around with our left flashers on. Always. It is the custom.
4) I used my turn signal to pass a car 10 kilometers ago, and I cannot hear the clicking because my radio is playing -- loud. Real loud.
5) I am actually driving with my four-way flashers on; but only my left light works.

But, my absolute favorite is the designation of a road hazard. Your car breaks down on a curvy, narrow road? Put several huge rocks in the road right at the curve.

Someone has stolen the metal manhole cover in the street in front of your house? Don't bother with a warning sign. Stick several dried palm fronds in the hole as an international warning sign that to drive over them is to invite a visit to Manuel's axle shop.

I saw a variation on that warning this week. While on my afternoon walk, Bob, a neighbor, warned me to be careful as I rounded the corner. There was a danger I could be garroted.

I chuckled. I shouldn't have.

Sure enough, a utility line of some sort was hanging just at my throat level. But the neighbors had already responded to the emergency by placing a full trash bag and the ubiquitous dried palm frond in the street, as well as tying a bull-friendly red cloth on the line.

I have no idea what pulled the line down. A lot of big boats on trailers get moved down that street. I suspect one of them snagged the line and pulled it down. But that is just my factless speculation.

However it got there, it was a great hazard for cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and otherwise-preoccupied power walkers. In the next couple of days, I watched several potential victims veer out of trouble's way just in time -- thanks to the informal warnings.

The neighbors called the electric company. A driver was dispatched the next day only to discover it was not a power line. That left the possibility of it being a telephone or cable line. When I walked through in the dark last night, I could not see if the line was still down.

It is easy for those of us who grew up in the north to expect these hazards to be roped off with police tape or road barricades. But I am quickly coming around to the Mexican way of warnings.

Like anything else, when driving on a Mexican road, you have to be far more aware of your surroundings. Unlike governments up north, no one here is going to do your thinking for you.

And I find that quite liberating.

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