IMG_3275I’ve been in quite the grouchy mood, one would think, from my recent posts. When it rains, it pours.

A banal mishap this summer rocked my world, and I feel like I’m living in some kind of Groundhog’s Day of repeats of it, if not personally then existentially.

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Small road, deep ditch. Not even a tire’s width of flat grass, then a ditch (called a fossé in French) that could easily eat a car.

One day I was driving on a back road between two villages. It was unusually busy–undoubtedly people dropping off their kids in one village for a big event and then heading home; in fact I was on my way to the event. I know the road well and would pull over and wait on the spots that were a few inches wider. These roads are barely big enough for two small cars to pass, and forget about an SUV. So over and over, I eased my car onto the grass, all the while aware that the shoulders are not even a foot wide. One day, on a different but also narrow road, I passed a car that was upside down, having been too polite and pulled over too far. A man with his 8-year-old-ish son stood bewildered on the tarmac’s edge as a tow truck winched the car out.

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“A” is for awful. Actually A means apprentice, a scarlet letter affixed to cars during a driver’s first year of having a license, so other drivers know stupidity lies ahead.

Then a beat-up Clio came barreling toward me. The driver had a cigarette in one hand, the steering wheel in the other. She didn’t make the slightest effort to move to the right. I had two wheels on the grass and didn’t dare go farther.

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More of the same. Ditches on both sides.
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Not much space at all to pull over…
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A tiny bit more on the other side of the road.

Bang! She tore off my side mirror. That made her pull over (on the wrong side of the road). She came up to me: “It’s your fault!” she yelled. She had a convoluted theory that the car that was going faster would suffer less damage and thus be shown to be at fault; since her mirror was gone she was the victim. I pointed out that I was barely moving and that my side mirror was missing as well. I asked for her insurance information.

“There’s no point,” she said. “The code de la route says that when two cars cross each other, any accident is 50-50 each driver’s fault.”

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Even worse: I hesitated to WALK over this. No way in a car. Not even in my half-size car.
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Check the drop! This passes for a “bridge.” Happily, it connects nowhere with nowhere.

And it’s true. It doesn’t matter that she was driving like a lunatic, didn’t slow down and didn’t make the slightest effort to move to the side. And with that, she hopped into her car and took off again. I have a strong suspicion that, having a Renault Clio, one of the most common models around here, she will simply take a mirror off another Clio in a parking lot and her problem will be solved without spending money. I got a new mirror online for about €30. So it was a small thing but it really irked me.

Do you find yourself in situations where you’re minding your own business, being respectful, obeying the rules, and then some ogre/idiot barrels along and sets you back, and, on top of it all, blames you? And the rules don’t support you at all?

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Parking lot lines are for other people. (Red car in center)

I remember a friend’s child who was getting picked on at school. The main bully was the teacher’s pet. The teacher refused to believe his pet could be mean. The child had to speak up, he told her parents. On the playground, when the mean girl acted against my friend’s daughter and she asked the teacher for help, the teacher said the kids needed to work things out among themselves. The mean girl took that as a green light to keep up the bullying. More importantly, the other kids also saw it as the teacher acquiescing to the mean girl, giving her even more power.

These days, among adults, bullying is more subtle, and among the hoi polloi, committed via cars. It’s about taking up two parking places, or the gutless wonders who “ICE” electric vehicle charging spots (ICE means internal combustion engine; “ICEing” means parking in the charging spots to inconvenience people with electric cars). Or who park in handicapped spots–the lowest of the low.

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And this guy…construction blocked the road, and what’s usually parking was for exiting this service road. Except that this jerk parked so that nobody could squeeze by. What was he thinking? He was thinking, “I got a great parking spot.”

Those are just examples of being discourteous. There are bigger, more serious crimes that are committed, and the response is, the other side is also to blame. But often–usually–the other side’s real or imagined offenses are nowhere near the same scale. The idea of both sides being at fault magnifies small faults and lets real offenders get off.

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A pretty view, to reset after this rant.

After my experience on the road, I went to the gendarmerie. It was another Catch-22. He informed me that since the wicked woman stopped, she didn’t flee from an accident. I pointed out that had she not stopped, I wouldn’t have been able to get her license plate number, considering the speed she was driving at. The law says that even though I pulled over and she didn’t, we share the blame equally. But I could file a report anyway, to give my side, the gendarme consoled me. Who knows–if she does this regularly (and I somehow don’t think that she usually drives with great care) then it will be in her file. Most of all, it was cathartic. I felt like I had done something, however small, against somebody who flouts the rules.

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Grape harvesters hard at work…it’s still the season.

Are you a rule follower? A rule flouter? What do you think of people who commit terrible acts and then say, “the other guy isn’t perfect, look at him!”?

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42 thoughts on “Moral Unequivalence

  1. I am respectful of rules that make sense. Dumb ones are made to be broken and I consider it my duty to do so. ´Les incivilités’ are the bane of French life and I think we can only try and be kind by example….while sticking to the worst offenders whenever possible. Grand scheme of things? Let it go. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting that the French must say “bonjour” and kiss hello and goodbye, and if they don’t are considered rude and consigned to manner hell. But being “pushy” or disregarding other rules is OK. Aren’t cultures so interesting!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the funniest things used to be (before it was automated) at airport immigration control on entering the US. Americans on one side, in single file, and non-citizens on the other, in a giant blob. Cultural differences.

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  3. My wife and I moved to Carcassonne from the United States about 9 months ago. We do not have (nor have we found need) for a car. This information on the <> is news to me, but confirms my conviction to not get a car. It is possible to exist without them. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, we live a good half-hour’s drive outside Carcassonne. So it’s where we do everything–the village has very few services. But we go only once or twice a week. I wish we were near the Canal du Midi, which would make it possible to ride a bike car-free into town. Or just nearer to town period. Glad you like Carcassonne. It’s a sweet town.

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  4. It’s so frustrating being on the receiving end of these sorts of self-centred people. Absolutely enraging because there doesn’t seem to be a way of dealing with it. Doubly enfuriating if you wouldn’t dream of doing similar yourself on occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree with you. Some people think it’s all about them and you better get the heck out of their way. The road going into our neighborhood is barely wide enough for one vehicle also. But in most places there is plenty of room to get over and let others pass. Some places you better just pray that the other driver has good driving manners. One lady in our neighborhood, however, doesn’t think she should have to move over so you better get out of her way. After a few close calls with her and one time where she stopped in front of me to visit with another neighbor, I’ve given her the unfortunate nickname of the “little snot”. As the other neighbor pointed to me and obsivily told her that I was behind her, she flipped her hand as if to same no big deal. She can wait! And she did it twice! I didn’t have a good old Southern hissy fit but I came close. Her mama lied to her. It ain’t all about her. She is now and forever will be the little snot!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was waiting in the interminably long security line at Charles de Gaulle yesterday and was nearing the front of the line when two young Frenchmen cut the line right where I was standing. I was so mad but didn’t have the words in French to scold them so I just got as big as I could and held my place in line. It was stupid but it got my blood pressure up. Get here early and wait in line with the rest of us! How do you say jerk in French?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve had the same experience and just used English and called them out. So they just cut in line behind me! CDG is terrible. I have many unhappy experiences there.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Connard. Pronounced koe-NAR.
      Abruti. Pronounced ah-brue-TEE
      Salaud (more vulgar). Pronounced sah-LOW
      Con (see connard). No way to describe pronunciation because of the nasal N.
      Crétin. Pronounced Kray-TAN (also with nasal N)
      ENJOY!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. There are so many people in this world that think it is all about them, sadly if is getting worse. Thankfully you were not hurt. I hope that you have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh yes….its their way and they are right!! Don’t stop at stop signs, go thru a red signal light, pass you in the exit lane, passing in a curve or hill, park at angle so close to your vehicle that you can’t get in your vehicle, don’t wait for you to back out of parking space(just blow horn and keep going…..etc. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and rude!!! And this is NC, USA! You just have to drive hoping nothing happens and don’t be rude back unless you want to get shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, all the ugly ways that “entitled’ evidences itself. And somehow being in a car magnifies the whole thing. I alternate between cursing ever more creatively, and just laughing (well mocking I guess) these infantile adults. Just shaking my head, saying “really?, really?” at their ridiculousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sadly, as a college French major, I can’t remember how to spell “say domage” correctly – old age has taken its toll on me. And as an “old” person at 72 I try to be especially careful and polite because sometimes the “other” people can be rather frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Old” is relative. I expect respect from teens. I yield to anybody with a cane or walker. It just seems right.
      It’s “c’est dommage” and you pronounce it Say doe-MAHJ.

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  11. Oh, I’m terribly law abiding but am usually pretty libertarian when it comes to considering the behaviour of others, however … what is it with young women in cars?? And invariably are the rudest and most potty-mouthed when called out on their misdemeanours. Perhaps it’s the faux security of being inside a wheeled tin can that makes them feel like superwomen and immune to any nasty repercussions. Anyhow, bolshie is the attitude du jour with many of The Young. Was it ever thus, I wonder? … I’ve totally turned into an Old Person with my complaints about Youth Today!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a car is a physical manifestation of the anonymity that makes some people cyber bullies.
      It isn’t just the young, though. I can think of a quite elderly person (I’m sure you can guess who), who manages to say the equivalent of “well, so what if I was drunk driving and killed an entire family? The other guy is a criminal too–he had a parking ticket!”

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  12. I feel your pain and annoyance!! The same kind of thing happened to me many years ago – a driver going at fair speed who did not pull over far enough even though the road was plenty wide enough for two cars, and who smashed off my mirror. I stopped, the other driveer did not! I was driving a hire car at the time, and I was not willing to lose my deductible. I had my partner and my parents with me, and my dad encouraged me to turn round and to go after the other car. It felt like a wild west car chase!! Eventually I saw the car pull over – I imagine the driver wanted to examine the damage to the car (it was quite a bang). My dad told me to pull up right in front of the car, so that the driver could not just drive off – it made it feel even more “wild-west”. I didn’t speak French at the time, but my partner was fluent, and he tore a strip off the driver. She didn’t want the insurance involved, perhaps she had had too many such incidents, and offered to pay for the damage to our car. My dad estimated what it would cost to repair the motorized mirror (turned out he was pretty much spot-on), and the other driver offered to write us a cheque there and then, only none of us had a pen!! So we drove to the nearest village (let her drive in front, said my dad, more wild-west) and asked to borrow a pen in one of the bars. That done, we went our separate ways. We found part of her mirror by the roadside on our way back and stopped to collect it. Her address was on the cheque, she lived in the same village as us, so I left her the mirror part on her car a few days later. I wonder if the agressive driving is a youth thing or just a state of mind, no matter the age? I’m not prepared to take chances on the road, whether with my own life or someone elses, and I resent other drivers who do. These days, I rarely get really worked up over it though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a tale! I do know somebody who lost her insurance after having had too many accidents. She kept driving and not with any more caution. She would remove parts from other cars to replace those she had banged up, not to have to buy new. She was/is awful in so many way; driving is just one example.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. In the UK, ‘road rage’ is on the increase with far too many people ‘tail-gating’ which I hate as it is so dangerous. This, of course, seems to me the main way most French people drive and I really don’t understand why. Surely, they aren’t taught to drive as close as possible to the person in front of them? Likewise, when overtaking… This is turning into a rant but, as you say, a good rant can be very therapeutic! I’m sorry that you had this experience but it made for an excellent blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh yes. Discourteous driving makes me very cross indeed. As does people not queuing. I feel quite murderous at that. When in another country I try to avoid melt-down by remembering that I am not at home, but it doesn’t help though in some places I can actually shrug my shoulders and let it pass. What does, however, incense me wherever I am is people walking along and looking at their phones, no matter what or where. So very rude expecting others to walk around them while they stay in their bubble. The desire to suddenly slap their phone up and out of their hands grows on me apace.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A few years ago, I want in the getting-on lane at a local highway, and some dude cut around behind me on the right to jump the line and zoom ahead. This is where you say, “Where is a cop when you really need one?”
    Just behind the pack, as it turned out, and s/he turned on all the pretty lights and took off — and about a mile down the road there was pushy-dude, pulled over while the cop wrote him a ticket. It made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am a rule follower and it irks me no end when I encounter some idiot… like the one yesterday who passed me on the wrong side of the road at a high speed, then proceeded to weave in and out of the slow rush hour traffic ahead of me. The “A” sticker on the back of a car… Love that idea! xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the A is very useful.
      I am thinking, though, of the most egregious rule-breaker, whose defense is that the other side didn’t dot an i or cross a t and therefore is just as much to blame.

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