Wednesday, November 07, 2018

whrere there never was a light

In September, big news came to San Patricio.

The village is getting its first traffic signal (you light up my life). Actually, two traffic signals (imagine bumping into you here). Both on Highway 200 through town. The first at the corner with Álvaro Obregón -- less delicately called "Whorehouse Street." The second at the intersection with Lopez Mateos -- the main street into San Patricio's business district.

And the first signal is just one brick short of a wall. The poles were installed yesterday with their naggingly-commanding red-yellow-green hectoring.

But the colors are still aspirational. If I have calculated correctly, there is no electrical power, yet. When that happens, what was once a free flow of traffic will be disrupted.

Anything new always causes the usual suspects to mount their orange crates. It is just another version of the open-closed debate that internationally haunts our political lives.

The Openites love any change that rolls down the calle. You want to mix peanut butter with orange peel and habanero peppers? Good for you. Let's all do that.

The Closedians don't much cotton to anything that was not done by their great-great-great-great grandmothers. Would Moctezuma have approved of a traffic signal? I don't think so. And who is going to think about the children?

The debate really does not matter. It is simply an opportunity for the cheerleaders and grumblers to show off their chops. The signal is there. And will soon be operating. As will the second.

The more interesting question is what is going to happen when the switch is flipped. People who grew up here (and those of us who have inculcated the driving culture) are not accustomed to even looking for traffic signals in these parts. There are a few stop signs, but none are obeyed.

None, that is, except by northerners who keep an eye out for behavioral conformity. And therein lies the potential problem.

I do not know how universal the phenomenon is, but in The States studies have shown that whenever stop signs or traffic signals are installed at a formerly-uncontrolled intersections, traffic accidents increase exponentially.

The reason is simple, people assume that other drivers will see the signal and obey it. If drivers are not accustomed to the presence of a signal at the intersection, they will often not see it and accidentally bump into someone who not unreasonably thought other drivers would obey what The Authorities had decreed them to do.

Driving in Mexico is not so much a skill as it is an art form. Choreography, to be specific. I love watching anyone do something well. And Mexicans are experts at making the seemingly-unworkable work. Admittedly, it is far more Alvin Ailey than Swan Lake, but it is a wonder to behold.

The local choreography, which is almost always based on custom rather than something chimeral like objective regulations, has its own rhythm. And that beat can be thrown off whenever Mexican tourists roll in from Guadalajara or northern visitors venture forth.

To the uninitiated, the two soon-to-be-controlled intersections are chaos. I myself have commented several times I am amazed there are not more accidents.

There are accidents, but usually when someone tries to apply Tapitio
, American, or Canadian rules or customs to the dance. Usually, stopping when a cautious person would stop -- if they were not involved in a pas de deux.

The ballet will now have a director with a harsh hand. And the dancers will need to learn that free-style will not work at those two intersections.

And, for all of us, this is merely a reminder. Not everyone will see the lights as a code. And maybe not even guidelines. I will need to abandon one more strand of my libertarian love for Mexico.

Be careful out there. 

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