The people of Mallorca, probably all of Spain for that matter, pride themselves on being laid-back and not easily excitable. Tranquila, tranquila, is the mantra.
But put them behind the wheel of a car and it's a different story. They become maniacs! Frothing, bumper-attacking maniacs. Of course all foreigners criticise the locals in the country they settle for being bad drivers, in fact all drivers criticise other drivers for being bad drivers, but I just find it surprising to see all this road rage amongst the calm and self possessed Mallorcans.
Why do normally mild mannered people turn into throbbing, screaming live wires of anger as soon as they have a gas pedal under their foot? I have a theory: A car, or rather, a driver, is like a baby. It has no words with which to berate the other driver, locked away in the little bubble as it is, so its only recourse is helpless rage. Tears would be undignified.
One country where foreigners (whitey) complain a lot about local drivers is China, and not without reason. But Chinese drivers don't seem to have much road rage; they don't have time.
One time hitch-hiking on a grey and rainy day in Tibet, the driver wore sunglasses and watched a film on an overhead monitor while driving, all the while rifling through his DVD collection and turning his head to chat leisurely with us. But I shouldn't have worried - this was on a straight, fairly wide road.
A few hours later we were driving across 5,000 metre mountains on a road are so narrow it could only accommodate one car, where one little mistake meant certain death; death by a thousand mile plunge. But I felt strangely safer, because that driver kept his eyes glued to the road.
I’ve experienced being in a car that crashed into traffic cones because the driver was busy texting, and I’ve spent more than one night on overnight buses keeping the driver awake because he kept nodding off and veering off the road. I’ve been in taxis trying to overtake trucks at the entrances of tunnels, or other cars near the tops of steep hills or at the beginning of a sharp bend.
These professional drivers (with the exception of truck drivers who mostly drive well, probably because they carry valuable cargo and not just humans) seem to think that nothing can happen now that they are safely within their little metal universe, and that other traffic is simply a nuisance to be conquered at all cost. As for questioning the absence of safety belts – “No need! The fine is only 1 yuan!”
Once in a taxi in the southern city of Guangzhou, I felt I was in some kind of action film like Speed. Not only did the driver try to overtake every car and bus in his way, hurtling at full speed and swerving wildly between lanes before slamming on the brakes just before the red light; he also drove with one hand and read the newspaper with the other.
That we were going along flyovers 30 - 40 metres above street level added a certain frisson, or... what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes, shit scared! But the driver got angry when I suggested putting his paper down. That time I was the one with road rage; passenger road rage. It was a good thing I could speak Cantonese, eh? How else would I have been able to give that suicidal - no homicidal because he was the only one with a seatbelt - maniac the old what for.
Now you can soon be arguing with taxi drivers in their own language, while sticking it to the Mandohooligans! They have almost got rid of the Tibetan language - now they have cast their hungry eyes on Cantonese.
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
Today's Cantonese: 我唔想死！ O m seung sei! (I don't want to die!)