Whatever happened to our good manners in Dubrovnik! Did we ever have them? It drives me crazy. No, I am not talking about the “pleases” and “thank you” that we offer as we give up a seat in a bus for an elderly passenger, although they could be improved as well, no I am talking about drivers, or the driving culture. As soon as people enter their cars they seem to transform into an alter ego. A mild mannered person becomes a hooligan with a steering wheel. I call it the Dubrovnik “Jekyll and Hyde” effect. And one thing that completely goes out of the window is manners.
When I start to think about it manners has never been a factor of Dubrovnik drivers. You can’t lose something if you never had it. A by far the most annoying part of this driving culture is so simple to cure. All it entails is a raise of the hand, in the form of a “thank you.” So you let someone out of a side street into the main road, raise your hand, it isn’t that difficult.
So just the other day I had a treble bad manner moment. Having an office behind the tax office is challenging at certain times of the year, well the times that tax returns are due. The tax office has parking for about six cars (another great organisational triumph) and six hundred cars want to park. Maybe they could start a “drive-through” tax office. So I tried to get to my office through the forest of mobile bookkeepers. The road is basically wide enough for one car (or two Smarts) so if you meet someone coming the other way the fun begins. I meet my first car and even though he could have moved over I decided to reverse down the street before turning into a smaller street.
He passed without even looking at me! Not as much as a wave of the hand, nod of the head or beep of the horn. Zero! My reversing manoeuvre had taken about 1 minute, how long would it have taken me to say thank you. Again I tried to drive up the road, but again on the same narrow bend I met another car, damn! And this time he had another car behind him. Ok, I waved that I would reverse backwards to make space. The same story, I moved backwards down the road, into a side street, but this time the driver just looked at me. No, he wasn’t acknowledging me; in fact he seemed to be looking straight through me. That was when the leggy blonde lady passed my car. Ah, that is where he was looking. Again no “thank you” and then the other car behind me passed - zilch!
I tried for the third time to climb the impassable and impossible street. But this time I was not alone. All of my constant reversing had meant that I now had friends. Two other cars were behind me. “Oh no, I don’t believe it,” on the same bend we meet a lone car. Surely it was time for the other car to reverse. “I am sorry I am not very good in reverse,” shouted the elderly lady from the window. And by this time another car was queued behind her. The two cars behind me realised the situation and we all started inching down the road, like a column in reverse. And because there were three of us it took much longer. When we finally managed to make space the little old lady in the car inched passed, and yes you have guessed it, no thank you, no raise of the hand, nod of the head...nothing.
In the space of three minutes Miss Marple had transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West! But then shock, horror, the car behind her said thank you. This situation got me thinking. How many times to people actually show good manners?
So I decided to conduct an experiment. For one week I counted. I have a pen and piece of paper in my car (still today) in which I ticked the “thank you” and crossed the bad manners. I didn’t go out of my way to let people out, I just did a normal week of driving. So the results after one week were – total cars 32 – thank you – 8 – no manners – 24. I was actually surprised to get eight with good manners. But I have to be honest 3 of those 8 came when I went to Konavle. For some reason the further you get from the centre of the city the better the manners get.
But it isn’t just manners that are a problem. According to police reports last week there were 463 driving offences...that’s 66 a day! And 51 were for not wearing a seat belt, I am sorry but you have to pretty moronic not to wear a salt belt. Now my bad manners bug doesn’t seem so important. Bad drivers are like stars in the sky. You can see them, but they can't see you.