Listening to the traffic jam – Scaredy car

With winter (hopefully) coming to a close I shall talk once more about driving in Canada. I have more topics planned so it doesn’t get too boring, but I did want to write about this. Again, might not be anyone’s interest, but you don’t have to read it, so it’s fine.

So, during my time here I noticed that there are a lot of scared drivers, especially when the weather “suddenly” changes. This seems to happen when a lot of Canadians don’t expect snow falling in the winter. Or rain any time else. While there are reasons to be careful for both, there should not be a reason to be scared. I often see it that in rainy weather people start to drive extremely slowly although aquaplaning usually doesn’t happen until around 90 km/h. Which is seldom reached in this country, to be frank. So water is not really a reason on the road. How about on the windshield? Perhaps. But the wipers should keep it at bay. If they don’t, definitely stop until the torrential downpour stops. If it’s the spray from other cars in front of you, keep your distance. But unless it is dark out and there is a lot of rain or a really thick fog, do not turn on the fog lights. It doesn’t look cool, it isn’t necessary under normal circumstances and it will potentially blind other drivers (especially if you drive a large truck). And don’t get me started about fog rear lights. They are really not necessary until visibility drops below around 50m or so. Because only then others will have trouble seeing you as they approach. Any lower density of fog will result in blinding the person behind you.

Now to talk about water under 0°C. The snow variety, not hail. Why are so many people scared of this? Well, to be honest, if it’s really icy or slippery out, you should be careful. Again though, careful, not scared. And the reason so many people are scared, in my humble opinion, is that they do not bother to get winter tires. Now I can understand trying to save money, but if you rely on your car a lot, it is definitely something worth investing. And no, no, no, in a land like Canada, please realize that all-season tires are crap. Sorry, I do not have a better word for this. They are useless in winter as they do not heat up while driving like winter tires and the material does not stay soft in colder temperatures like they do, either. In the summer, they will be used up too fast, much faster than summer tires. So… if you get them while buying a new car, which seems to be common here, keep them for the summer, just to not bother with new tires and save money. They will do for the summer. But do buy winter tires for the winter. And you will notice the difference.

Another thing that will make a difference is the style of driving. Again, carefulness will get you further. And knowing the traffic rules will do so even more. As I mentioned once before, driving a manual car would be an advantage, but I will ignore that for now and save it as a final major topic. Back to the traffic rules. I am not saying that people here do not know them. (Although a lot of them don’t.) But most of the drivers seem to ignore or forget them as they panic over bad road conditions. And thus they assume they have the right of way and cut someone off. This can be dangerous.

Therefore, to save yourself from a possible accidents and to not endanger anyone else, please try to get the money for winter tires and be calm and collected while driving. And if you really are too scared, then stay home, maybe find some courses for driving under extreme conditions or anything like that. My dad always said: Fear is the worst co-driver.

In that regard…

Your Janner

Listening to the traffic jam – A clear signal to yield

One point I briefly touched ranting about people in the roundabout was signaling, or the lack thereof. There is not really much to say except: Signal for goodness’ sake! Sorry for the shouting, but recently you can hear about studies that more accidents have been caused by negligence, especially forgetting to signal, than by distracted driving (texting, eating, you name it). Now, I have an idea against negligence, but it has to wait until the last “proper” part of this miniseries, so bear with me.

But let’s ask ourselves the question: Why does it have to be like that in the first place? I can’t really offer a solution since it is so simple to me. The indicators are even placed so that you can easily hit them when turning the wheel in the appropriate position. And even so, turning them on ahead of time is not difficult at all. I usually try to be constructive about this, but I really can’t see a reason why this happens to begin with. Granted, for forgetting to turn the indicators off, I can understand most drivers of “American” cars. These manufacturers have the false sense of luxury that the sound by the indicators should be somewhat quiet, at least in most models. So therefore it might be hard to hear it. If music is the reason why you don’t hear them, however, that’s entirely different.

Now, since there is not much to say about this other than that it shouldn’t happen to begin with, let me write about another second topic, yield signs… or, again, the lack thereof. To give you an idea of how a different system works, I will, again, take a German example. Therefore I will go through a few basic signs and how they affect the traffic flow.

Yield    There are a lot of variations for this sign but I will go with the basic one. You will see it here in North America as well, and it does the same thing as here as well. You slow down, approach the crossing and – as the sign suggests – yield to oncoming traffic, if there is any. If there isn’t, you may go, allowing in a lot of cases to just breeze through corners that you can easily see. You could see Stop signs as an escalated form of the Yield signs, forcing traffic to (officially) stop for at least 3 seconds before turning, regardless of traffic. These are mainly used on busy and/or hard to overlook intersections. To the best of my knowledge from driving all over Germany, there is no such thing as an all-way stop. I will not swear on that, but I have never learned about them before North America nor seen anyone. And I will write more about this in a moment.

Right of Way for the next Intersection    Something that you see all around Europe, we have signs indicating when you have the right of way, such as these. On some minor roads that would usually have to yield to any new intersection there might be some farm roads that are even lower in rank than them. In this case you would find this sign, telling you that you don’t have to stop at the next intersection.

 

General Right of Way    This sign means that the road you are on has the right of way. What that means for you is that you don’t have to worry about stopping for any other intersection in the foreseeable future and as long as you follow the main road. Some signs have additional signs underneath, indicating which way the main road follows at the intersection. This really speeds up main roads without forcing any side to stop and constant pesky red lights.

 

Lights, Equal Crossing    But of course there are also lights in Europe! There have to be, especially in cities or heavily used intersections. But just not as many as here. Furthermore we have something called an equal crossing (shown on the left). Now, to explain this you need to know the basic rule that applies if traffic lights fail or if you ever come to a crossing without yield or right of way: Left before Right. This simply means that the person on your left always has the right of way. There is no first come, first serve attitude as on the all-way stops. If 4 cars happen to appear around the same time and all go left or straight, someone just has to be courteous to let someone through, so that left before right can take effect. And yes, sometimes this sign will tell you about these intersections, and sometimes (especially in cities), it is reversed. But then it will say so.

Every German driver knows about these and can drive accordingly (exceptions excluded). Of course there is more to these rules, but that’s not much different here.

So why not introduce more yield and right-of-way signs in North America? It would surely speed up the traffic flow. I do realize that most of the roads here have been built in straight patterns, but surely not all roads can be so important that some might have to yield and others can go through. When I look at rather normal-sized cities in the area and see how they cope with rush-hour traffic in comparison to European equivalents, you can see something has been done wrong here.

So in this case, it might be smart to follow this advice. All roads are equal, but some are more equal than others.

In that regard…

Your Janner

Listening to the traffic jam – Round and round it goes

Where you end up, nobody knows… not unless you signal at least. In this category, as announced, I will rant about the North American traffic in the shape of a little miniseries. Now once I finish this, I will still come back to revisit this topic whenever I have a neat anecdote to tell. To the pleasure of hopefully everyone. Or just me.

So what is there to say about roundabouts? A lot, frankly. I shall only refer to some main aspects. They spread out from the UK in the 50s and slowly but surely got popular around the world. Now, I personally can only tell from how they were introduced in Germany, oddly enough in Eastern Germany first, and people understood how they worked pretty much right away. After Germany reunited they found their way into the west, much to the despair of the Western Germans. (They might have been there before, but if, then only sparce.) Lots of Western Germans complained and battled them like Don Quixote, not understanding or not wanting to understand how they work. Sooner or later, however, they figured it out as well and that’s how they have been taught during the time I was in driving school as well. Driving school and how you learn to drive will be another topic, by the way…

Granted, being a curious passenger with my parents, I learned a lot about the way of driving, and thus the roundabouts even before getting my license. So that might be an unfair advantage, but here’s the simple breakdown:

  1. You approach the roundabout and yield to any incoming traffic.
  2. Once the coast is clear, you turn into the roundabout, not signaling.
  3. Before your exit you start signaling out of roundabout until you leave it. (That would mean right signal, unless you live in one of the few crazy countries that like to drive on the wrong side of the road.)

That implies that while you approach the roundabout and see someone signaling, you can easily just drive into it, knowing that the person signaling will exit and not bother you. That works pretty much perfectly in Germany.

Here in North America however… it’s a chaos. Literally only about 5% of the drivers that I see in a roundabout know how to use it. And of those, I just had a friend of mine mention how he signals into the roundabout, if he takes the third exit, in order to tell the other people that you go all around. That’s frankly quite confusing, since you might not know where the car started to drive.

So, my dear North Americans, why can you not simply follow the rules of a roundabout? It is really quite simple. A lot of them even have signs telling you to signal when you exit. It can’t get easier than this.

Alas, I shall not just rant, but also give a bit of a possible solution. In Germany we have a lot of public announcements, through all major newspapers and local gazettes as well as through all major TV stations. That way whenever there is a new change in the traffic law or anything like that, people will find out about it. Something like that could easily be applied here, or even send a letter to everyone with a license. Surely it will cost some money, but reducing the accidents will definitely save some money.

So, thanks for letting me rant… well, like you had a choice. I will re-visit this topic soon.

In that regard…

Your Janner

 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for the A.R.T.S.

There’s no explanation for this title, really. I will probably aim for various references, so you might get some, others you might not get, and hey, that’s fine! You know why? Because I’m glad you even found this blog, to be honest!

I started blogging back in 2007 in university, back then still in German and in Germany, while starting to write a novel as well. Ambitious, I know. Without further ado, I am back now and will not give much of an explanation about as to why I stopped for so long. That will soon be in the “About” section, so don’t fret. Just to give a short explanation: Life gets in the way.

So, what am I ranting about? Respect for the arts? Well, more so about the lack thereof. And no, I will not just be an angry German complaining about North America. I will also try to give a bit of constructive advice with all of my criticism. So let’s start.

Last weekend I was in downtown Toronto to enjoy a performance of Eddie Izzard at Massey Hall. The performance itself was great and there’s not much to say. Either you like him and his style or you don’t. What really bothered me though was the audience. Not that they were rude to him or anything, no. But their choice or clothing, behaviour and body language did not show much respect. Now I don’t want to say that everyone should sit straight and laugh at each joke or anything like that. But you should try at least. I remember back in Dresden (when I started the blog actually, but too early for a full circle yet) I went to the Semperopera and while, as a student, I did not have much money, I did try to at least appear presentable, with neatly cleaned and ironed jeans (yes, they look better like that, don’t be lazy, readers), a proper shirt and a sports jacket. I learned that from my parents. It’s how you show your respect to the performing arts.

Now we did the same for this event. Dressed up nicely, even suit shoes, suit pants, shirt and jacket. And mind you, those shoes were not the best choice for driving, especially since we got stuck in a traffic jam on both ways and I own a standard… so yes, my feet were angry with me. Regardless, I think it’s the least I should do, especially in a historic setting such as Massey Hall.

When I looked around though, I could only find a few people that had the same idea. Most of the audience looked as well… they were going to a ball game. Hoodies, saggy jeans, sneakers… now I don’t have anything against those in particular, I wear those myself on a day-to-day basis (mind you my jeans don’t sag). And I know, I know… it’s a comedy gig, but there’s no reason to be like that. So if anyone who was there reads that and feels offended, you have no right to.

Granted, Massey Hall itself does not help the cause. Yes, I mentioned that it is a historic place. And it is! So much that it seems that no one wants to disturb the history anymore. In other words, it’s run-down. It definitely needs fixing, music that was playing brought flakes of stucco down from the ceiling. The seats are old and worn out, uncomfortable even, and the whole building just looks bad on the inside. The worst part is though that they sell beer on these events. That should really not be necessary. And to the audience: You don’t need beer that desperately in a 2 hours show that you pay $9 for it… and buy another one after!

So, a little open letter to whoever feels responsible for Massey Hall… Stop being greedy, close it down, invest in a restoration, the place has so much potential! The ceiling and the painted glass windows alone would make it astonishing. Don’t sell beer. That’s just not necessary. It’s not a stadium. Which reminds me… I heard someone talk about season tickets for Massey Hall. Seriously? You are either interested in a play or not, but you don’t just blindly buy a ticket to see anything that they offer. That doesn’t help the cause, either. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, also fix the seating… less seats, more comfortable ones instead. I know it will cost you more money and bring in less, but it’s necessary. People have gotten taller in the last few years, believe it or not.

And to the audience. Don’t buy beer for events like that. Don’t act like you’re curling up to watch television. Dress up a little. Try at least. It will make the event so much more memorable. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Bottom line, I still enjoyed myself. I just wish people were more European here. But who knows how things will change. Now that actually is somewhat of a full circle. For the blog’s title at least. How about that!

In that regard…

Your Janner