Thursday, February 01, 2007

go, speed racer, go!

I think when Americans think of the European lifestyle, they imagine a slower-paced, relaxed way of living. Two hour lunches, shorter work weeks, long vacations, dinners that never end. This is a stereotype, but in every stereotype, there is a nugget of truth.

With one exception: when that laid back Frenchman slips behind the wheel of a car. Suddenly, all bets are off.

Oh, I've seen it all - being tailgated at 100 kph, cars passing me as if I were standing still on a two lane country road, or trying to pass two or three semi trucks at once and swerving back into the right lane between two trucks at the last moment. People are so speed crazy here, it's enough to make you want to breathe a quick prayer before getting in the car yourself.

A couple of days ago, the normally thirty minute drive to Troyes took close to an hour, thanks to a road crew shutting down a short section of one lane to repair a guard rail. Since it was close to lunch time, there were a good number of cars backed up, waiting our turn to cross into the left lane and get on our way. In the meantime, there were several drivers who were obviously so important they couldn't be bothered to wait patiently to get past the roadwork, so they sprinted to the head of the queue and ended up turning around and speeding away in the other direction. Since the only other way into Troyes is by tiny country lanes that pass through even more villages than the main road, I can't imagine how much longer it took them to get to their intended destination. The topper was when I finally got to the head of the line, the impatient jerk behind me, warbling away on into his phone headset (which I'm pretty sure is illegal in France), mistook my millisecond of hesitation for incompetency and actually tried to pass me. I know he didn't hear the obscenities I yelled at him, but I felt better.

Anyone else have some fun road warrior stories?

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