Driving here is so very different from driving in Britain. For a kickoff, the driving test is easier, so new drivers pass without having learnt enough about the road. There’s no test for a 3-point turn, reversing around the corner or parallel parking, and the examiner doesn’t watch to see if a learner looks into her rear-view mirror. That means there are terrible drivers on the roads.

But the most irritating thing about driving here is that everyone is really impatient. If a traffic light changes to green and my wheels don’t start rolling within 2 nano-seconds, the horns behind me start honking. If I take too long before overtaking a cyclist, the horns behind me start honking. If I give a pedestrian enough time to cross the road and step up onto the pavement, the horns behind me start honking. Horns honk at me every single day (that might be a tiny exaggeration).

It’s irritating, intimidating and flustering.

I wondered if I was inferring irritation, intimidation and fluster. Maybe the honking drivers were trying to inform and encourage me. Could this be just a culture difference that I was reading incorrectly?

But no. I don’t think that can be the case because if ever I need to use the loo at WholeFoods, people start knocking on the door. As soon as their footsteps approach, they feel the need to let me know they’re there. Why? It’s not as if I’m having a party in there. Those loos aren’t the most salubrious of environments. They don’t offer a great view. I’m not reading a book. My aim is to get out as fast as I can. Isn’t that what they do? Why bother knocking?


Now that's a loo with a view!

Now that’s a loo with a view!

About Natalie Gotts

I've been a management consultant, a nutritional therapist, a Journey practitioner and a mother. I've sold ostriches in China and personal safety devices in Hong Kong. Whatever I've done, and wherever I've been, I've written about it.
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2 Responses to Impatience

  1. ccassinerio says:

    Well, sounds like you’ve had a crummy time of it with famous Americian rudeness. So sorry.

    This is not in defense of the Whole Foods crowd, who can be quite gnarly in other respects, but it is fairly common that we are asked to knock before entering a public loo. That’s the way it is at my library, for example; there’s a little sign posted by the door. And now it’s more or less become a habit. My best guess is that many people don’t lock the door, depending on their toilet training or how badly they have to go, and the knock-first gesture precludes barging in on someone with their pants down. However, if you’re the one inside, it does feel as if you’re getting the bum’s rush. And sometimes you might be.

    As for driving, just put me behind the wheel and I’m swearing like a pirate in seconds. It is war out there, especially with the cataclysmic increase in traffic over the past few years. If your experiences are in San Francisco, you’re fighting a long-standing, prideful tradition of driving like you have been given a hotfoot. But, it sounds like it may be happening over in Marin County, too. Yeah, people are in a hurry around here, though nothing will ever beat out the Italian drivers in my experience. As for no parallel parking test, that is something new. It used to be part of the CA standard driver’s test.

    • nataliegotts says:

      Hmmm, a misread culture difference. Fascinating.

      And don’t get me started on Italian driving. Naples!!!

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