I love driving. When we were still living in Argentina I was the one who most used the car in the city, as long as I was not walking or biking that is. My husband always preferred taking a cab. Now that we are merely ‘visiting’, it is usually my husband who drives the rental.
Until this weekend.
I had to do a trip on my own.
Driving in Capital is quite a challenge, and not for the faint at heart. I don’t consider myself as such, quite on the contrary, but I was afraid I might have lost my confidence after all these years.
It turned out I haven’t.
The traffic rules here are quite similar if not the same as in other countries, only the letter of the law isn’t always followed in detail that much.
For example, the use of turn signals is mandatory, but here it seems optional. You must stop in front of a red light but not everyone does so. You must have lights on at night but not everyone has them. You must take over on the left side but if that is not possible, just take the right side. And please! Don’t stop for pedestrians who want to cross the street when there is no crossway! If you do, the cars behind you will start honking, hang their head out of the window and start yelling. And what if you are on the left lane of 7, and you need to turn right at the next block? No problem! Let your passenger put his arm out of the window and just go! That same lane of 7 has lines that separate them from each other, but no one really seems to notice them. There are speed limits but on the highway cars don’t even slow down when there the police is there.
This is definitely the informality mentioned in a previous post. But isn’t it right out dangerous there? you might ask. It probably is, even though I haven’t noticed nor experienced it personally : the statistics aren’t exactly good.
Even though drivers might yell at you or honk their horns, they might sound aggressive, they seem aggressive, but they aren’t half as aggressive as Belgian drivers… They make a lot of noise but know when to let go of their ego, when they have to let someone get in front of them. They are not worried if they arrive 2 minutes later (or even too late) at their destination. It’s just time. And they seem to have seen all that is happening around their own car; they seem to be skilled in avoiding accidents, or maybe they just have a 6th sense.
But back to me and the Ola Verde.
So I get off the highway on Entre Rios and drive home. That’s about 3km (roughly about 30 traffic lights) on a 5 lane road, of which 2 lanes are preserved for taxis and busses. It has a ‘Ola verde’, or ‘green wave’ or ‘groene golf’ : if you drive the appropriate speed you can get all the green traffic lights. In rush hour -that is most of the time during the week- this is not possible as traffic is too slow, but during weekends or when the city is empty during an extreme heat wave as we are having now, it is or it might be.
We have made it a game to have as little traffic lights as possible. It takes some skills, as you must make sure you don’t drive too fast, nor too slow, and you must change lanes regularly -as all Argentines do- in order to keep that same steady speed. After a couple of times you perfectly know what that speed is and what it feels like; it starts to come naturally. It’s absolutely no use to drive through the orange light shifting to red, as the next light will definitely be red. Once you have an orange light, you’ve lost the game.
And it looks like I still got it! (Or I was lucky, or the amount of traffic was just right. Nahh! Let’s just say that I still got it!) Thirty something traffic lights of which only 4 were red. I feel like a winner!
What a delight!