Monday, October 13, 2008

Machismo Madness.

I don't just dislike the car, I actually hate driving here. I think it's much worse than Sri Lanka. True there aren't buffalo carts, tutktuks, livestock, bicycles with beds loaded on them, on the roads, but it's so much faster here, so much more dangerous, and more than a little anarchic.

People just don't obey the rules, ( I know I sound ridiculously British about this) or seem to have much road safety awareness. Vehicles shoot red lights, I regularly get hooted at for stopping at them, they jump queues of cars waiting at lights, drive half on pavements and ignore one way systems.

So on my way to school, I meet an average of 10 cars coming towards me up one way streets. This is entirely normal. They are never honked at. Today I even met a police car going the wrong way. These cars always seem to expect me to get out of the way, never mind they shdn't even be there. Grrrrr. it' s not good for the blood pressure driving here.

Decidedly less funny, is the overtaking. On our way back from Monte Negro recently, I was in a constant state of nervous tension as cars overtake at the very last moment, nipping back into their lane with seconds to spare. Sometimes cars just carry on down the middle in a self appointed 'suicide lane' Head on collision dreams are my recurring nightmares now, so the blood pressure doesn't get a break at night either.

On this particular journey, a black Mercedes was coming straight towards us in our lane, even though he was not overtaking any cars. What was he doing, he must have SEEN us? My husband just lent on the horn, slowing down as he did so, whereupon the driver, who was close enough now, to be seen laughing with his mates, swerved back across to his side of the rd and then deliberately swerved in and out of the central white lines as he zoomed past.

The machismo culture in Albania is at its worst in the car. I have come to the conclusion that some of these drivers must be playing chicken, they cut it so fine in overtaking. Mopeds on the dam (a traffic free rd along the lake) play chicken with me all the time, as I bike along it, just drive straight at me, then swerve away at the last moment. Ha ha, what a good joke.

I have heard Albanian women complaining about how scared they are by the way their boyfriends drive here. It just seems that driving a car is a big game here to some men.

A few months ago, Dritan Hoxhes from Top Channel t.v station in Tirana, was killed along with his mistress whilst driving his Ferrari at 210km/h in Downtown Tirana, a built up single lane carriageway. The car was split in two. Machismo at its maddest... Just look at how far apart the two halves of the car ended up..... Unbelievable

As antidote to all this road anarchy and machismo, I quite enjoy subverting it by being extra coutreous and solicitous of pedestrians who are used to shooting the rapids of the raging roads. They generally just lace their way, stop-start, some nonchalantly, some apprehensively, all resignedly, between the flowing cars. The only way to get across.

They even do this on Skanderberg Square, a huge old communist parade square where the cars are 5 or 6 deep as they go round.

SO I always stop at zebra crossings (unheard of) and if I meet a pedestrian car-dodger I always stop and wave them across. I have to say it's worth it just for the reaction. There's always a hesitation, sometimes slight bemusement, quickly followed by relief as they catch your eye and invariably give a smile or a wave.


Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

Hey ladies - this might seem odd, but I'm putting together an expat wives writing community and both of you (Worlds Apart and Paradise Lost in Translation) were suggested by Iota as possible participants. Can't find any email, so I'm going this route lol. The site is and my email is hometownwriter(at) Check it out and I after reading thru both of your blogs, I look forward to hearing from you!

Iota said...

Sorry. Mea culpa.

The driving sounds just horrendous. Maybe it is a blessing in disguise that your car is so often out of action.

Anonymous said...