Sunday, September 18, 2011

Signs and Roads

I love names and signs in the Caribbean.

There is a different attitude down there, the "Island" view of life.

There is an official sailing chart of the island of Grand Bahama, which shows a reef off the coast. If you are sailing in that area, the chart will show you that a reef is marked by a buoy which was placed there to warn sailors. The chart helpfully notes that "The buoy was sunk in a storm in 1999." I was impressed that, rather than fix the problem, they took the time to note the fact in a permanent map that the warning buoy was no longer there.

Ireland, presumably because it is an island nation, has a similar approach to signage. We were barreling down the country roads, with trucks and tour buses bearing down on you, and the livestock in the fields protected by rock walls. We came around a corner and the little white line which normally runs down the middle of the road showing whose side is whose was no longer there, in its place was a helpful sign which said "No Road Markings".

Couldn't they have taken the time to do the road markings rather than leaving the roads unmarked and going to the effort to warn us about it?

I don't know if this happens to other people who grow up driving on the right side and find themselves driving on the left side on purpose. As I have told people in England and Ireland, "There is a right way to do things and a wrong way. We drive on the right side, which side do you drive on?"

The problem is perspective. When I drive on the right side, I think I know exactly where my right front bumper is. I believe that I could ease it up to softly touch something without harming it. When I drive on the left side and am sitting on the right side of the car the left front bumper is somewhere "out over there". The best guide is to line up your right bumper with the white line in the middle and hope that the roads are generally "big enough" to cover the left side of the car. Of course, this doesn't work when you are in villages and towns where people park cars by stopping forward movement and getting out. There, you just go around the cars and hope you don't meet up with another car, truck or bus coming the other way.

So, with no road markings, you have no guide as to where you need to be. The basic rule is to judge the size of oncoming vehicles, the bigger the vehicle, the more room you give them. If you are bigger, then you can hope that the oncoming driver has the same view as to the rule "size matters".

We have rented larger cars the last few times we've driven on the left side. My view is that the best defense is a good offense. My early ventures had compacts, we've graduated to four doors and I'm looking at SUVs and Hummers.

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