Sunday, October 22, 2006

Random Thoughts on Driving

While stuck in the car park at Marks and Spencers yesterday, we saw Mary Hanifan, Minister for Education, walking to her car with a purchase that looked like a mop. Well, I saw the Minister. Peter was half-way out of the car, trying to see why the line of cars wasn't moving.

I would have thought Ministers had someone to do these things for them. I mean, I can't see Condi popping down to the Safeway for a bag of cat food or Alberto Gonzales stopping into Wal-Mart for Windex. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld stops into the 7-11 every morning for a Big Gulp and a doughnut. But somehow, I just don't think so.

This random ministerial sighting wasn't holding up traffic. (I was probably the only person who noticed.) It was the fact that one driver had decided he absolutely had to have a spot that some other driver was vacating in a painfully slow manner. When the space was finally free, you'd think that Mr. Hold-up-traffic would have darted into the spot so as to clear up the backlog. You'd be wrong, of course. The guy had to back up into the spot labouriously because clearly, if you're in the M&S carpark on a Saturday afternoon, you don't have anything better to do.

With the exception of maybe the odd Tesco, car parks here just don't have the space to let you zoom around an obstructionist motorist. One old lady in a Nissan Micra can halt the flow of cars for ten minutes as she tries to edge her tiny car into a regular-sized spot. You don't want to see what an SUV driver can do to a car park.

The driving test in this country is notoriously difficult to pass. Well, it's notoriously difficult to even take in the first place. I am on a waiting list that's at a minimum a year long. Then, when you finally get the privilege of taking the test, it's even-odds that you will fail. You might think that having this difficult test means that people here are fantastic drivers. Once again, you would be so wrong.

Driving too slow, driving too fast, failure to use their indicators, slicing blithely through the outer lane of traffic in a roundabout, a complete inability to merge onto the motorway... I could go on, listing the common driving sins I see on a regular basis, but it's too depressing. Besides, I only hold a provisional license and provisional license holders are the most maligned drivers on this island, although I think the reputation is undeserved. Plenty of full-license holders drive like eejits, it's just that unlike Learners, they are not required to display a Scarlet Letter on their cars.

I don't know who is to blame for the culture of bad driving that prevails here. I think, though, that a little bit of personal responsibility and courtesy could go a long way to improving things. You don't have to take unnecessary risks or inconvenience everyone else. There's always going to be another parking spot, another chance to turn right, another green light, so maybe you just have to let the one in front of you go.


At 22 October 2006 at 17:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had my first lesson with my mother not even 30 minutes ago. It went very well. Only stalled once or twice and none of the trying to impersonate a gangster on my start offs either.

The driving test is a joke. My friend passed his test yet he can't even parallel park! It's just crazy.

At 24 October 2006 at 20:32, Blogger -Ann said...

Steven - Congrats on your first driving lesson. Your mom is a brave woman. :) My mother has only allowed me to drive her on about three occassions. She made my dad do all the teaching. Maybe I need to go down to Cork to take the test - all I hear in Dublin is failure horror stories!

At 25 October 2006 at 12:14, Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Hi, I just stopped by for a gawk. I once met a Minister in the underwear (lingerie they call it now) department of Dunnes Stores. We chatted away for a few minutes, her new 'smalls' held in front of her. One of the few moments in my life where I actually felt I was living in a republic.

At 26 October 2006 at 18:50, Blogger -Ann said...

Conan - that is one of the best stories I've ever heard. Did you know her personally or was this just the sort of small talk you might make with a government official whilst shopping for underpants?

At 27 October 2006 at 00:55, Blogger Conan Drumm said...

We'd met just a couple of times, once before she was in Cabinet.

At 31 October 2006 at 16:51, Blogger Lyss said...

Jay Leno once told a funys tory about how he and Kevin (his bandleader) had to pop out to the supermarket for cat food (for Jay's cats) or something... They said people were quite suprised that they went shop[ping, just like everyone else.


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