International guide to crossing roads
I think I cross roads like a pro now. Paris was a cinch. There are traffic lights and signs, and things work pretty much the way they are supposed to.
Armenia was a steep learning curve. There, there are traffic lights and signs, and nothing works the way it is supposed to. To cross a road, you monitor the traffic carefully, all the while stepping out into the road and skirting aroudn the cars as they speed past you.
One time in Yerevan, as CP and I waited to cross (or to build up the courage to cross) a man came up behind us, strode out in front of a speeding car, held up his hand and yelled, “Stop!”, in English. He then turned to us and gestured for us to cross, then finished his own passage across and continued on his way. He was just some passer-by.
In general, our friends appraoched crossing roads with an air of panic. “Come, come,” they would beckon, all the while beating a forearm downwards, repeatedly, very fast. In general, this seemed to CP and I to be in the face of oncoming traffic. But what did we know, in those early days?
In Sarajevo there wasn’t so much traffic, but I think K was a little horrified at how bold I was, in stepping out into the road whenever I wanted to cross. He would pull me back and urge me to wait for the lights.
In Mostar there wasn’t a lot of traffic either.
In Dubrovnik, the Old Town is pretty much car free, we no problems there either. I worried I would lose my new skills if I didn’t practise them.
Lecce was very civilised in terms of traffic. SB and I did venutre out into traffic at non-crossing points, but it was all without incident or story to tell.
Then we got to Naples. Here I was in my element. All my Armenian skills came straight to the fore and we crossed every chaotic, rain-spattered road with great confidence. Only once were we graced with a hurled Neapolitan curse by an irritated driver.
Now I am in Rome and I have no idea what the rules are (in Naples I just assumed there weren’t any). There are lots of zebra crossing lines painted on the roads. Hardly any are accompanied by traffic lights. I have watched the locals closely, and I think I now understand. The rule is, wait at the side of the road to clear it of any immediately threatening or speeding traffic. But don’t wait too long. Start to walk across the road, make eye contact with the driver (I keep looking on the wrong side of the car, making eye contact with the passenger side and wondering why they are always shaking their heads of gesticulating at me. No, not really,. Like I said, I am a pro). Keep walking. Buses tend to be good at stopping. But keep an eye on everyone.
Hopefully when I get back to Melbourne my more civilised habits will kick in. Melbourne is, after all, the place where my sister and I got fined for jay-walking across Maroondah Highway near Ringwood Station. These things are taken seriously there. Be warned, it could happen to you (and it is kind of embarassing when it does).