An Extranjero's Journey through South America
Of course, the first thing that has to be mentioned about the developing world is the traffic. Most of the developing world has been set up as an elaborate death trap; non-potable water pouring from the taps, parasite-riddled foods, sidewalks with potholes and random concrete protrusions, stairwells without rails, disease-carrying insects, ceilings so low that they present imminent danger to the crown of my head (which tops out at 5’7″ on a good day). Chief amongst the dangers of the developing world, however, is anything related to vehicular transport. Taxis, buses, private vehicles, bicylcles, and motorcycles are all deserving of their own articles. Today I’ll tell you what it’s like to be a pedestrian in the developing world.
Picture yourself at an intersection in the USA. Now take away rhyme, reason, rules, and any sort of regulation. You have now arrived at a Latin American intersection. The first thing you need to remember is to ignore the light, on the rare chance that there is one. Perhaps it is tempting to follow the light, but you will follow it to your death if you don’t look in every direction thrice. Taxistas (taxi drivers) rarely are bothered with the color of that glowing thing at intersections, which means you shouldn’t be, either. There is a benefit to ignoring the light; as soon as traffic clears, you can go. No senseless waiting at a red light as the rule-bound Americans experience. The locals will look at you like you have a riddle tattooed on your forehead if you stand at the start of a crosswalk waiting for a red light to change.
Once it has been determined that the traffic flow is stopped, it is important to calmly, coolly RUN YOUR ASS across the road as fast as you can. There WILL be more cars very soon, and they WILL NOT care whether you exist or not. Once you’ve made it across the street safely, it’s always good to utter a brief prayer of gratitude to whatever deity you worship. Perhaps next time the traffic gods will not be so kind to you.
Crosswalks? What are they? I’m not sure there is a word in spanish for crosswalk. Sometimes you can find white lines painted where people are otherwise crossing, but I’m not exactly sure what these lines are intended to convey. Usually the sidewalks and landscaping will funnel you into a crossing point that has no apparent lines. Do not be bothered, cross where you please. Certainly engineers weren’t bothered with logic and reason if they had any part in designing the roads.
I sometimes wonder about the ethics of so doing, but I have a tip: The best way to avoid trouble at intersections is to use the locals as human shields. They seem oftentimes to have a definite lack of regard for their own safety, and as such, they tend to cross directly in front of cars without a care. All of this is indicative of a higher mentality that I will undoubtedly explore, but that is for another day. For now, happy crossing!