Monday, August 02, 2004

Greek Anarchists

Driving in Greece is a trip; I finally did it and survived to tell the tale. The first day I was there, though, I almost caused an accident because I didn't know the rules.

Actually, there's only one rule: There are no rules.

A red light, for example, in Greece means "Eh, you may want to consider stopping at some point, just in case, but whatever suits you is fine and if you have a fancy car, (anything with 6 cylinders counts) and you want to pass everybody by going around them on the left, just go ahead."

Then there's the move I got confused by, namely the 'pull over to the right with the left turn signal on'. I, naturally, slowed down when I saw the car in front of me slowing down with a left turn signal blinking (actually, I was a little amazed to see the signal, at all) but then the driver pulled over to the right of the lane, stopped completely and sat there. I stopped in surprise then noticed that she was waving me around her, so I finally came out of my stunned
confusion and took off. Not before some moron in a Smart Car (have you seen these things? a roller skate in a can; my dad calls them 'a two lunger') came up on my ass and beeped me.

I ignored him but I was thinking "Hey, watch it asshole. I'm driving a Ford Mondeo wagon, here - I'm big, I'm bad and I have airbags, dammit."

That was just my first day driving in Greece. I saw that particular maneuver again but I was ready for it.

I think they make up stuff as they go along, there. Take the imaginary middle lane, for example. Two lane freeways aren't really two lanes, they're three lanes. The fast traffic weaves around the slower cars by using the imaginary middle lane, a cross between regular passing and a game of chicken that involves nerves of steel, excellent reflexes and more creative uses for the blinkers. Has anyone seen this type of driving elsewhere? Is this a European thing,
or just Greek?

And how about posting a big red N on new drivers' cars? I liked that, actually - the scarlet letter of driving.

As far as parking goes, no rules at all. In Athens, one may park at one's discretion as long as one uses the hazard flashers. Stopping one whole lane of traffic? No problem, just use the flasher while your wife's in the shop. Automatic free pass while the other drivers pull out their hair and pray for your wife to hurry the hell up.

In the village, though, it's a lot more fun. I enjoyed the parking anarchy there.