Monday, February 10, 2014

Wait Run Walk

Dances with traffic.

I've heard a few theories about why people relocating here lose weight.

  • The high altitude and thin air.
  • The sunshine and additive-free, fresh food diet.
  • Bertha's SCOBY.
  • Zimlutz-Krantz Magnetic Phonons.
  • Giant Lizard People secretly living among us.
  • Something else then.

Most likely something else. Such as, for the first time in their lives, those who come here are forced to get off their fat asses and walk. Even if it's only a few blocks a day, to go eat.

Since it's nearly impossible to drive here, and inconvenient to own a car, people have to walk, or starve entirely.

But getting around Cuenca on foot is a learned art. Specifically, the art of staying alive by avoiding bumper bumps.

However, things are improving.

There are ever more traffic lights going up in the old part of town, the business district, or what is also known as el centro.

I was here for six months in 2013 and then left for another six months. Back now, I'm amazed by the changes that adding a few traffic lights have made. I hope they keep it up.

People still jaywalk. All the time, everywhere. I do too. The streets are so narrow that it takes only five or ten seconds, and generally you're safer by crossing when there's a break in traffic rather than depending on fictions like stop signs to protect you.

Or an idea called right-of-way.

Because pedestrian rights are zero. Stop signs are similar to U.S. yield signs, but less so. Even the police blow through them at full throttle.

Here, a stop sign means Maybe at this intersection you ought to slow down because there could be cross traffic. But maybe not. So WTF. Your call.

Traffic lights help. Drivers stop for red lights and go on green lights, more often than not, but things can still get odd.

I saw a driver stopped at a red light last March or thereabouts. There was one other car at the intersection.

When the light turned green the other car left. The car nearer me stayed put for ten or fifteen seconds. Then the driver honked once and drove off.

No, I don't have any idea.

And when you cross the street on a green light, drivers who are also moving with the green may try to go over the top of you, so you keep your eyeballs peeled, make your moves between turning cars, and look over your shoulder a lot.

But that doesn't solve every problem. Some drivers act like pedestrians and go when the going looks good.

A couple weeks back I saw a driver stop on a red. The cross street was a one-way going right to left from the driver's perspective.

After coming to a stop and sitting for a few seconds the driver inched forward, looking to the right. Parked cars in that direction blocked the view, so the driver inched out farther. Traffic came.

When that wave of traffic cleared the driver inched out farther, the better to see if anything else was on its way.

This dance repeated several times until two conditions came together:

  • The driver had edged half a car length into the cross street, partly blocking one traffic lane, and
  • Oncoming traffic was clear for half a block or so in the upstream direction.

Then the driver, satisfied that it was safe, regally drove through the intersection against the red light.

So, no matter what, if you're walking you gotta keep hopping if you don't want to end up flat.

And the skinny gringos?

Having a fat ass slows you, so maybe the skinny gringos here didn't slim down. Maybe they're the survivors.

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