Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm glad I never have to drive here

My first experience in Korea was with a van driver. At the time I thought he was perhaps new to the act of driving. Now, however, I know the truth.

I like to look out the window when I'm in a vehicle, and being in a bus or taxi provides ample opportunity for that. Having to rely on public transportation I've been able to do a lot of window gazing in my two weeks here. At first I focused on buildings and landscapes, but recently I've been transfixed by what passes for driving in this here country.

It seems that in Korea, or at least Seoul, certain driving laws that I always understood to be necessary are taken as only suggestions. Take lanes, for example. Now, call me silly, but I've always felt that the lanes painted on the road were there for a reason. Lanes here are more of a suggestion. If you can fit your vehicle between two other cars, you do. Damn the lanes, you'll make your own!

Another prime example is found in the behavior for buses and taxis. The first time my taxi straight up ran a red light I almost had a heart attack. I feel that anyone would suffer some heart palpitations if your taxi squirted across a busy intersection, barely avoiding being creamed by a bus. Again I thought that perhaps it was that particular taxi driver who was lacking in driving skills. No, if you are a bus or a taxi and you feel as though you can make it across an intersection without killing anyone, you do. Red lights, I've heard, are for pushovers.

My last example takes place on the highways. What happens on highways here is kind of like something out of the nightmare of a parent on the eve of their child's 16th birthday. If you would like to change lanes, well go right ahead. No, no don't wait for a space in traffic! Silly you! Just start changing lanes. Right Now! But be careful, if you pay too much attention you might miss part of the program that is playing on your dashboards TV. After all, there's no one else in the car so you, the driver, are clearly the intended audience. Oh, and if you think this is easy when you're doing 5 or 10 MPH in bumper to bumper traffic, don't worry, in a bit the road will open up. At some point, if those around you are lucky it'll be during a commercial break, you'll get to execute this balls to the wall lane change trick at around 60 or 70 MPH!

I have yet to see a traffic accident, but I've only been here two weeks. I suppose it is technically possible that every driver in Seoul is amazing.

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