Slalom Chicken and Traffic Circle Double Dutch

| April 8, 2013

When we moved to Germany, I worried a little bit about the whole driving thing.  I figured nothing could be worse than the Beltway, but I also knew that I was heading for the continent of traffic circles.  I’ll say this: despite the comment I am about to make about traffic circles (behind which I firmly stand), I do prefer them to traffic lights.  Traffic circles are never red.

That said, traffic circles can be like a cruel game of Double Dutch wherein children of different heights are rotating the jump ropes at different speeds, and just as you go to jump in, another child jumps in and punches you in the face.

But that’s not the real issue I have with driving in small towns.  It’s the other game: Slalom Chicken.  The streets we live on are wide enough for less than two lanes of traffic.  They allow for two-way traffic as well as parking on both sides, alternating.  You know, two cars parked on the right, then 4 on the left, then 6 on the right, then 2 on the left.  So you’re on a slalom course, playing chicken with oncoming traffic.  Seriously.  And this can be happening on roads with speed limits up to 50 kph.  That’s actually pretty fast, considering the fact that you might be pulled over behind a row of parked cars, then pull out and get halfway down, and be met head on by someone you couldn’t see from where you were, and now you have to back up because the guy on the side of the road with no parked cars on it (at that particular moment) has the right of way.  So now you’re backing up while that driver continues driving at you, about 6 inches from your front bumper.

And on these narrow roads, it took me only a couple weeks to take out the side view mirror on my brand new Volvo.  How?  I’d just dodged a truck and hadn’t fully corrected before I realized (post-“BAM!”) that there were poles exactly the height of my side view mirror, lining the sidewalk.  A couple months later, dodging a bus, I took out someone else’s side view mirror.  I stopped and left a note in English and German, but they never called or emailed or stopped by the house.  I soon after learned in class that I was supposed to call the police, and technically I’d fled the scene of an accident.  Well, I guess you aren’t a true expat until you’ve unwittingly committed a crime.

Which brings me to where I hope not to find myself before our time in Germany ends: Fahrschule.  I cannot tell you how many cars on the road–everywhere in Germany–are from the driving schools.  It’s unnerving.  Especially when you’re playing Slalom Chicken or Traffic Circle Double Dutch.  Apparently you have to log in like 800 years of driving before you can get your license.  I cannot believe they let me convert mine.  Anyway, you’ll see motorcycles with riders wearing Fahrschule vests, followed by a chase car.  You’ll see Fahrschule cars on the Autobahn.  They’re everywhere.  And if I keep taking out side view mirrors, I could end up there.

Of course, if I end up in Fahrschule, I might learn the real rules of the game.


Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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