27 April 2007

Traffic in Rosario: rant two

Continuing with the previous post, on to my (current) pet peeve. People here don't seem to understand that a car takes up physical space, and that that's the reason parking is allowed only in certain spots and following certain regulations. From a visual survey I'd say that at least 50% of cars are parked wrongly; even discounting those within the forbidden parts of the block, most people just can't park — they leave the car 40 or 50 cm from the curb, usually not parallel to it, too close to the next car, and blocking important exits.

Drivers also assume that, for things that can be dealt quickly, the car may just be left wherever it suits them, so they park in the middle of the street in a double row in front of a bus stop to go get cigarettes. And worse. I worked with a doctor who left her car in a spot that she knew was illegal for three hours; she checked it every now and then and occasionally moved it, but she wouldn't take it to a car park because it was expensive. My mother tells me people park (illegally) near the bookshop where she works, then get in, demand to be served quickly explaining that the car is on an illegal spot (!), get angry when told that's not a valid reason, and then feel genuinely surprise when they come out and see the municipal patrol taking the car away.

Parking space is a problem in Rosario. With the economic recovery, people drive more and thousands of new cars are coming out as well. There are no municipal regulations about the minimum amount of parking lots, and having one in your building increases your expenses; hiring a space also costs a lot. If you leave it on the street, you run the risk of it being robbed. There are many cuidacoches (car watchers) around — typically poor young men. Years ago they asked the drivers for a coin or two; now they unsubtly demand to be paid up 5 pesos or more to watch for the car, and if you don't give them what they want, your vehicle is practically guaranteed to have a scratch or a broken glass when you come back.

Anyway, while the cuidacoches are a mafia, they're a fruit of these times. It always surprises me when people spend loads of money to buy and maintain a car, yet are so cheap as to leave the car in the street instead of paying for a safer place, and then complain about insecurity and how "it's a shame" to have those lumpen blackmailing drivers.

1 comment:

  1. Queuing for buses? In Buenos Aires? Surely you gest! “Swarm” would be how I’d describe it JI’m with you though on courtesy and boarding. I’ll wait for anyone who’s handicapped, be it a 30 year old curmudgeon with musculoskeletal problems, or a 15 year old high school student on crutches, but otherwise I’m all for gender and age equality. I’m just trying to get on board before the driver decides it’s time to pull away.

    I’ve always thought that the driving habits were a manifestation of individualismo argentino. I have my own favourite beefs. My departamento in Buenos Aires is located on a one-way street with several restaurants. In the mornings delivery trucks double park and deliver supplies, and it’s not uncommon for two trucks to block the entire street, because, after all, it would require a few extra steps if driver were to park a few metres away. It’s always apparent when this happens because of the cacophony of horns and crude epithets hurled at the oblivious delivery guys. I also have a neighbor with a bright shiny new Audi, who always revs his care for several minutes on the street, so that we can all “admire” the noise and come outside to see what’s going on.

    If only Dante knew what to expect he could’ve designated a Circle in the Inferno for Argentine drivers. Now they’ll just be everywhere blockin’ the Bolgias, expecting to be tortured first, because they can’t wait an eternity.

    Who’ve thought that being a cuidacoche could be such a good living. Let me grab my shades, a deck chair, good book, and my cellular to order the pizza. Stake out my territory. Watch a few cars. Retire young.

    Peace brother.



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