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Drive defensively? No way!

June 2, 2011 2 comments

When I took drivers ed in 1985, one of the big things that they teach you is to drive defensively.  Now, for a teenage boy, this goes against your very nature.  I couldn’t wait to get my license so that I could drive our Chevelle, and drive it fast.  It is a wonder that I didn’t get into serious accidents or even get a ticket, but I didn’t.  Over the years, I have had to learn to slow down and look for all the bad drivers that tend to want to cut me off or run into me.  Driving defensively is a smart way to drive…in the USA.

But, in Paris?  No way.  You let your inner NASCAR driver out and go nuts! (Which is one of the reasons that Jen didn’t want to drive in France.)  If you wanted to get anywhere, you have to learn to drive super aggressively.  Case in point, I was the first youth pastor at our church that didn’t total a car while driving in France.  I will have to be honest, I absolutely loved driving this way.  You cut people off, honk your horn (a lot!), and look for the smallest opening to fly into.

One of my favorite things that I loved to do in Paris was drive through the Etoile. Everyone knows l’Arc de Triomphe.  The roundabout that encircles it is called l’Etoile.  Here, twelve (yes 12!) roads come into one giant circle…that has NO LANES!

A bit of crazy traffic in the Etoile.

When we first moved to Paris and drove around, we would often end up places where we weren’t quite sure how to get back to the western suburbs where we lived.  But, in Paris, finding the Etoile was easy.  I could find my way home from the Etoile, so for a long time, every time we went into Paris, we would drive through the Etoile.

Now, there are two basic rules to these big roundabouts.  Use your horn as much as you can and whoever is to your right has priority.  So, the people coming into these big roundabouts can cut you off and you can’t do anything but honk.  So, I loved entering the roundabouts…fly in and they have to avoid you.  But, the tricky thing is getting out of them.  Those darn drivers coming in have the right of way, so you have to figure out a way around them.  That is where you channel your inner Frogger and try not to die.  But, if you are aggressive enough, you won’t get stuck in the roundabout for too long.

Whenever we had friends come and visit us, I would try to drive through the Etoile with them right at the start of their visit.  Once they saw that we could survive that craziness, they relaxed on the rest of their trip.  The rest of the crazy driving that they saw didn’t seem to bother them as much.  They were often amazed that 1) I would be even willing to try and drive around in it, and 2) that I loved it so much.  Plus there was the added bonus of a bigger, more confusing roundabout just down from the Etoile that we would drive through and after going through the Etoile we would get to drive down the Champs Elysees.

One of the hardest things about moving back to the US was toning down my driving.  I once again had to go back to driving defensively.  Jen had to remind me often that I couldn’t use my horn so much.  I had to learn again how to not purposefully cut people off. And I also don’t have any big huge roundabouts to have fun in.

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Categories: Driving, Paris Tags: , , , ,