Friday, December 19, 2008

Ike Driving

A few years ago I spent some time in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. It was an amazing experience in so many ways, including my exposure to driving in Africa. Kim and I lived in Genoa, Italy when we were in grad school and I had always’ thought driving in Italy to be a challenge. Ethiopian drivers changed that opinion. Driving in Addis is a full speed adventure – an E Ticket ride. Lanes are really just suggestions, as are most of the other traffic laws. Every car has a dent from a too close encounter with a neighbor. Aggression and boldness are the prerequisite driving skills.

A trip last summer to Romania was nearly as harrowing. Romania is most two lane highways lined with ditches on which drivers play an Eastern Europe version of “chicken.” Fearlessness and the ability to quickly calculate the closing speed of oncoming traffic and the needed skills.
On each of those occasions I left the driving to those with more local experience (though I did drive a bit in Italy). Today, I wished I had taken lesson from my Ethiopian friends.

A few days after IKE and traffic in Houston is beginning to feel a bit like driving in Addis. Without traffic lights and with trees and standing water turning roads into obstacle courses driving is increasingly requiring fearlessness and aggression. It’s gotten a little worse each day.

Two rules I’ve discovered.

First – do not make eye contact with other drivers – it’s a sign of weakness and they’ll never let you go.

Second – He who hesitates waits – be bold and hit the gas.

I suspect in the days to come traffic will get back to normal – but for now – start your engines and let the race begin!

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