“HORN HONKING. It’s worth being aware that there has been a certain ‘Italianification’ of English driving habits, and they’ll honk their horns on any slight pretext. If you don’t have room to let them past, if it’s the weekend, if they’re in a hurry, if you don’t start at the green light with the reflexes of Usain Bolt, if you wait to turn, because there’s traffic coming the other way... they honk at you. And if you try to overtake them, they gesture at you when you come alongside then floor the gas and tear off ahead of you. So you have to get used to all this, but after a few weeks you learn the ropes and don’t get honked at so much. Still, when you’re still new to English driving, and to driving on the left, their impatience is another source of stress.
“Driving? I wouldn’t call them experts. Bus drivers approach their stop, still doing 40km/h, and then brake hard at the last minute. We’ve just had a light snowfall, which revealed how helpless they are against winter conditions. The fact that they don’t use winter tires – at most a snowflake-pattered outer layer they slip on over the main tire – shows that this is not a nation which generally gets a lot of snowfall. The fact is, though, I don’t think even the basic laws of physics are covered in driving school, because even I (and that’s saying something) wouldn’t try revving the engine to a scream and trying to drive across slippery slush.
I watched from my window yesterday as a woman was reduced almost to tears by her attempts to drive up a hill. She wasn’t making any headway whatsoever, and at last a kind-hearted dog-walker helped her push it into a parking space, so at least she could take a break and pull herself together.
Some may raise an eyebrow, but I think a person’s ethnicity can be used to roughly anticipate their driving style. Of course, it’s even more pronounced if someone actually learned to drive in Kolkata or Mumbai, but even after generations in the country, I think there’s a special, steely resolve in Asian women: they don’t give a damn about anything. One Filipino colleague, for instance, always says a prayer before turning the key in the ignition. After that, though, she feels divinely protected – once, when she was driving us somewhere, she found something so funny that she shut her eyes and put her face on the steering wheel in fits of laughter. We all shouted at her to stop – stick to the left, come on! Before that she’d been driving very neatly, straight down the middle of the road.
In case this all seems a bit unfair, I will say that I have the highest respect for female bus drivers – in my experience they have a much surer touch than their male colleagues.” (2017)