Always cross the street at the red light. Why? Because if a driver sees a yellow or green and you are crossing, they won’t stop, trust me. As ashamed as I feel, I think I’m sometimes one of them: the Ecuadorians, who have a professional racing driver complex. I’ve always wondered why we’re like that. I do not consider myself to be a reckless driver, but something happened a few days ago to make me reconsider. I was driving, trying to cross an intersection, with tons of cars in front of mine. Suddenly, there was this bus driver next to me, you know, with his hand outside the window, waving at me and I just thought, “Oh hell no, I’ve been here for almost half an hour, in the correct line, waiting for my turn to cross and he just comes and waves at me? HELL NO!”
I just mouthed “no” and as soon as the light turned green, I hit the accelerator and did not give him a chance. Why did I do that? Keep reading–I think I figured it out. I’m not an experienced driver. I do not drive in big, busy roads or on trips. I just drive in the city and some days it is emotionally exhausting. You go with your heart in one hand and pray to Jesus you won’t crash, because when you see the news you think, “Oh my God, how did this happen?” And I pray that my family and I are never involved in these crashes.
Let me paint a picture for you: you are driving, at the legal speed, when you see someone behind you beeping like crazy–maybe their behind is on fire, who knows? But they keep beeping and they are so close to you, and when you look at them in your mirror they are screaming at you, until finally they try to overtake your car in the wrong lane. Now, if you are like me, you might like to teach them a lesson, so you won’t give this person the space to pass you. Instead you’ll stay in the middle until this person just gets tired and finally does it in the correct way. Ha! Lesson learned! But of course the police officer who was nearby will not understand your point in giving a lesson… a ticket for you. So lesson number #1: Do not ever try to teach an Ecuadorian driver a lesson because you might get caught by the police and of course the idiot you were trying to teach the lesson to becomes the victim here.
Here’s another case: every Ecuadorian (so ashamed of this but it’s so true) thinks they are so close to every place, so when we have to be somewhere at, let’s say, 8:00 a.m., we think to ourselves, “I can be there in 10 minutes.” It doesn’t matter if it is one block away from your house or at the end of the world. But then it is 7:45 a.m. and we get nervous and start to do everything at the speed of light and we find ourselves driving 100 km per hour, changing gears as fast as we can, overtaking every car in our way until finally the road becomes a racetrack. So lesson # 2: We are always late. No matter if it is for a meeting, church, or work; I think this is our worst flaw.
I think it has a lot to do with culture, and I do not mean our incredible heritage. I mean the set of actions which define a nationality. Let me explain a little more: when I was a driving student, I was in this car on the small streets of El Centro, and the teacher would say “Please hit the brake. Let’s wait for the pedestrians to cross,” but he would never say, “Please give that other car space to turn into your lane.” I do not recall one time he said that, and I don’t know why or what happens in our brains that won’t allow us to do this. To write about this I watched carefully every time someone tried to ask for “space” to turn and almost no one gave it, not even me. We just hate seeing other cars go in front of us in the wrong way. In my case, I just want to teach them a lesson–they need to wait. Everybody’s time is valuable, so just because they have a big truck or a big car doesn’t mean they can go in the wrong lane and then just wave their hands to ask for space. No, no, and no! Does this make me a bad person? Like everybody else, I want to be home as soon as I can but I try, most of the time, to be polite, but some days it just gets me so mad. We call them los sapos, “the frogs”, because they try to jump ahead of you.
I do feel bad for speeding sometimes when I’m late. I don’t ever want to be involved in an accident or hurt anybody or wake up in a hospital or, worst of all, wake up in jail because you were an angry or reckless driver. This is why I pray to God every day to give me the courage to stop trying to teach drivers a lesson and just mind my own business. I just want to drive carefully, mindfully, and keep praying that neither you nor I have an encounter with the sapos, the law, or jail. So have a happy drive and be careful with Ecuadorians because if we can, we will run you over. So please be a safe walker, too!