Confession: I’m Afraid of Commitment

It all started about a year ago.  We moved to Rabat and I devoted myself to studying the ways of the Moroccan driver.  Valuable lessons had been learned in Tanzania and one of those was to drive like a local.  I vowed to watch, learn and replicate.  I shed all of my preconceived notions of road rules.  I shed my politeness.  And I might have shed a bit of sanity.

One maneuver in particular drove me batty.  It’s the tendency to straddle the lane rather drive in it. Many a great ex-patriot minds have theorized why this phenomenon occurs.  The leading theory is that the bicycle lane claims too much of the far right lane, forcing cars to overflow into adjacent lanes and oncoming traffic.  It’s a good theory, but after thinking about this problem for quite some time, I am convinced the real problem is that Moroccans are afraid of commitment.

You see, if you straddle the lane, you have the advantage over cars behind you.  You make it difficult for others to pass while at the same time preserving your ability to quickly change lanes.  Why commit when you can have the best of both worlds?  Have your cake and eat it too.  No need to check the mirrors or signal.  You’re already blocking the lane anyway.

For a long time, I was that frustrated person in the back who could not pass.  [Sigh], wasn’t I supposed to integrate into the Moroccan driving world?  I just could not bring myself to participate in such madness.  Instead, I dug in my heels and stayed in my lane.  But then suddenly, without warning, I was driving along happily and frustration-free when it hit me.  I was straddling the lane!  What freedom!  What joy!  I was doing it and no one could pass me and it was great.  Commitment is for the birds.

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Here we are, straddling the lane, taking a photo of someone else straddling the lane.  Note the painted dashed line that pales in comparison to the triple-lined bike lane.

Elation over my discovery was short lived though.  I quickly learned that while many Moroccans have no problem blocking someone else, they certainly don’t expect anyone to block them.  This is the exact opposite of Tanzanian drivers who were happily the transgressors and the transgressed.  So here I am, a liberated lane-straddler with everyone angry with me.  Blerg.  I think it’s better this way though.

And that brings me to another maneuver, which I’ve tackled in a completely different way.  When turning left, the concept of waiting in line completely evaporates.  For example:

Here I am, next in line to turn left:

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And here I am 3 milliseconds later with everyone else turning left around me.  I can no longer see the oncoming traffic, so I’m stuck in no-mans-land unable to go anywhere, cars filing past me happily to their destinations.  Thanks Monsieur Volkswagon.

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So I use the curb to my advantage.  Pick and roll.  Voila!

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I spent way too much time on this graphic, but it was totally worth it and I’ll probably do it again.

I guess you could say that while I can’t commit to a lane, I am fully committed to making bad drivers wait their turn.  And Matt is fully committed to using his horn, since there’s a wreck almost always about to happen.  And we are both committed to talking about how bad the roads are, as frequently as possible to blow off steam.

One last story.  There’s a big intersection in town.  The light sometimes takes an inordinate amount of time to change and inevitably, folks start honking.  At who?  God?  The sky?  After a year here, I finally figure it out.   They honk at these folks who are in charge of circulating traffic during peak hours.  And suddenly, the light turns green.  See, honking does work!

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This is my Wizard of Oz moment when I realize the power behind the traffic light boils down to these two.

Now let’s just hope I can return to normal driving one day.

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