Drivers put into perspective

I moved to Grand Cayman from the USA in February of 2008.

That is the month that I married a beautiful lady who has Caymanian Status and has lived here for years. I subsequently attained my Permanent Residency and enjoy island living immensely.

During the 50+ years prior to my arrival in Cayman, I managed to drive over 2 million miles in the continental US and most of southern Canada. For a number of years I was a long haul truck driver and moved a variety of commodities across North America. I relate this history to qualify the rest of this writing.

The one thing that life on Cayman does not satisfy is the ability to hit the open road and drive non-stop, at 70 or 80 miles per hour, for hours. Of course, my native Texas offers the wide-open spaces and I must depend on infrequent trips there to fulfil my yen for the road.

I have complained about Caymanian drivers since I moved here. I realise that I have made my share of mistakes in my attempt to learn to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Fifty years of habit is very hard to overcome. The failure of island drivers to properly signal lane changes, stopping through traffic to allow a vehicle to cross to the opposite lane, and stopping on the street or road to discharge a passenger or talk to a friend are all actions that I have had to learn to abide. But, Caymanian drivers take heart! You have just received a reprieve!

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Egypt. We visited pyramids, temples, and museums and learned much about the ancient civilisation that flourished along the Nile River. That’s another story. This is about the drivers in Cairo. Cairo, Egypt’s capital, is a city of about 18 million inhabitants, located at the south end of the Nile Delta. It appears that at least half of the population owns a car. The other half uses public transportation.

Our complete amazement and the realisation that Caymanian drivers might not be so bad, after all, came from the bus trips that our group made as we visited different parts of the city.

Imagine the Linford Pierson highway at 7.45am filled with traffic, as normal, but with three lines of cars crammed into the space now used by one line. Each driver seems hell bent on pushing every other vehicle out of his way. Horns are blowing as drivers signal each other of moves or maybe just to join the horn chorus. Suddenly, the oncoming lane has no traffic moving away from George Town. Vehicles in the inbound direction fill the space and now there are six lines of cars moving toward the west. Taxi drivers, who always seem to be in a hurry, are on the gravel shoulders attempting to move ahead of everyone else. Amazingly enough, no accidents occur but, the horns never stop and it would be next to impossible to wedge a phone book between cars, side-to-side or end-to-end, as they move along.

If you can picture the preceding situation, you have a small idea of the amount of traffic and its movement in the city. This scenario exists on city streets crowded with pedestrians, who cross streets without the aid of traffic lights, and on controlled access highways. Traffic signals are only suggestions and are seldom set for more that just blinking caution lights. Only intersections with police officers or military personnel directing traffic merited enough attention for a stop. Buses stop in traffic lanes to discharge and load passengers. The disruption causes more horn blowing and merging vehicles as drivers attempt to move past. Add to this motorized melee a very large amount of animal traffic. There are camel riders, donkey riders, donkey pack trains, and donkey carts that are moving agricultural products and merchandise around the city. If my description gives the idea of total bedlam, that is how it appears to a tourist. We only saw one auto accident in the two weeks that we were there. I am sure that there were others, we were just not aware.

I am sure that as my Egypt experience fades I will complain to myself more often about driving in my adopted home. A trip to Texas now and then will also aid in satisfying my need for speed. I enjoy the sun and the sea here in Cayman and I enjoy a top down trip across the island in my Miata from time to time.

So, take heart Caymanian drivers, I will not be so quick to criticise or complain, for a while, at least.

Randy Kinsey