Monday, March 17, 2014

Driving in Winnipeg

Happy St Paddy's Day, folks! To celebrate, I am wearing a green t-shirt, drinking a sophisticated cesar (staying clear of the green beer and Jameson's of St Paddy's day past), watching the Jets game and typing up a real doozy. .. and while I was typing that, my uncle said to me, "Well, I think I might have to have a beer, Laura!" Thank goodness. Now I don't have to drink alone. Now to the good stuff....

I've lived in and out of Winnipeg since 2008 when I started university - this January, I made the trip to the Autopac place down the street and got myself a real Manitoba license! It took me about three years to get used to the city, nevermind consider making it my new permanent residence. While I was doing my undergrad, I didn't have a vehicle but was able to borrow Ian's truck whenever I needed wheels (even before we started dating. What a trustworthy guy!)... for those of you who don't know Ian's truck, she is a thing of beauty. I was even lucky enough to call Bon (short for Bonnie) my own for a couple of months this past summer. She squeaks and she rumbles; if you don't hold on to the steering wheel tight enough while you accelerate from a complete stop, she will send you flying backward in your seat; she comes with whips (I think that's what they are called), a radio (this is Rusty Nail, come in Candy Cane) and a pretty sophisticated, Bluetooth enabled stereo; and for about $120 you can fill up the tank and make it to the end of your street before she needs refuelling. Did I mention she is only 21 years young and comes complete with power windows, locks AND seat adjusters. Good times with ol' Bon. Now, it may seem like I'm about to write about Bonnie... but you are mistaken! I'm going to write about all of the lessons I have learned from her, about the rules of the road when you are driving in Winnipeg.

To start this off, we will talk about safety; because it seems as though 90% of Winnipeg's licensed drivers may or may not have found their driver's licence in the bottom of their box of Lucky Charms (staying with the St Paddy's theme here). The other 10% are people who aren't from Winnipeg, but if they live here now like I do, they didn't learn to drive here. Seriously. Like... I don't know why there are even stop lights. In a normal city or town, green means go (but look both ways first, amber (lol do I sound official?) means stop if you can please and red means if you are still going you're an idiot and I hope you don't get hit but I do hope you get a ticket. In Winnipeg, however, people drive like donkeys most of the time and green means go, unless you are first in line at a left turn signal of course, because there might be people behind you that don't want to wait for four more lights to make it through; amber means don't blink, just keep going (unless at a camera light, which I will explain later) and maybe even speed up cause guaranteed three cars behind you will also make this light; and red, oh that light there on the top? That means stop. BUT if there isn't a camera, most people will not stop, so here's a tip: If you are stopped at a red light, when your light changes to green make sure you look both ways at least five times before you go because chances are, someone is going to run the red. I'm not joking - this happened to me twice last week. (Not that I would have to worry in Bon, cause she's so quick off the line............)

Hmm, what else did Bon teach me? I think .. maybe .. oh shoot, what's that thing that we all complain about every spring? OH! That's right. Potholes. Pottttttthoooooooles. I guess since this is the first time I have ever actually had my own vehicle (Bon, the Silverado has been replaced by Gus, the Maxima), I pay attention now and notice that the roads are in fact, covered in craters. I have two quotes that I have stolen which I am going to share with you:
1 - "If you had a Smart Car, it would literally disappear if you drove into a pothole." Ian Cook
2 - "Dodge the potholes! My new fave game!" Alyssa Grove, vis Facebook status which I commented and said I was going to use that ... so ... yeah.
So the potholes. Literally, it's like driving on the worst gravel road you have ever been on and every single bump gets a weird facial expression (which I'm obviously going to show you at the end of this post) and a swear. There's really not much to say about them, except that they really are no fun. You get to know which lane to drive in and when and how to avoid certain holes on your regular routes, but when you venture on unknown pothole territory, it's like watching a horror movie where the victim is hiding and you are sitting there wondering and wondering when the bad guy is gonna find them and then BAM! Pothole.

Bon isn't exactly the most powerful of ladies. She doesn't accelerate like she used to and she certainly can't squeeze in to her old jeans (I tried to make that clever but I don't think it worked - what I was trying to say is that if you are driving Bonnie and you want to change lanes... you need a lot of room.) But what Bonnie lacks in driving skills, she certainly exceeds in manners. Because of her bulky hips and slow moving feet, Bonnie relies on nice drivers to sometimes let her in to change lanes, and nothing grinds my gears more than someone who doesn't wave and say "Thank you" when I let them in - so after that long run-on sentence, I'll get to my point: Bonnie has taught me to be polite and courteous. If someone lets you in, wave and say "Thank you." and then make sure you pay back the favour and let someone in when you have the chance (and they've been driving with their blinker on since Pembina and you're on Osborne). If they don't wave, you have my permission to ram into them. Not really, but I know I'm not the only who who thinks about doing that. Seriously people, you don't have to take your eyes off the road and I knoooooow you probably only have one hand on the wheel anyways, so just take your free hand and WAVE TO ME. I'm not asking you to buy me a drink or take me to a Jets game or give me your first born child. I'm just asking you to put to use the first thing you probably ever learned as a child, your manners.

NEXT - Winnipeg is among the Canadian cities that have camera lights. I have no idea if they have any of these in the States... but nearly every third car is a cop so I doubt it. Camera lights, if you are unfamiliar, are stop lights with cameras at them that can snap a pic of your licence plate if you are speeding or go through a red light. I also just researched this because I am a legitimate journalist and if you don't come to a complete stop before you turn right and there's a camera, you're getting a ticket there too. When there is a picutre of your licence plate flying through an intersection, an interesting envelope will show up in your mail box, inside will be a nice fat ticket for you to pay. For more information on this matter, click on this link:, if you don't care.... just keep reading my blog instead.

Now, for the good part of the post: my photo interpretation of our thoughts and facial expressions while we approach/are engulfed by/leave potholes!

1. The approach
"I really hope I don't drive into that thing. Did a meteor hit and they forgot to put barriers around it?"

2. Engulfment
"Oh my gosh, can I get a concussion from this?"

"Ughhhh why is my car so low? I bet the whole underside of my car is scratched like a DJ's records."

"Hmm, maybe those douchey guys with super jacked up trucks have the right idea."

3. Departure
"I'll get you next time, Gadget... er... I mean, pothole. Not Inspector Gadget.. although, if I were IG, I would totally go-go-gadget fly over all the potholes. Maybe I will invent a flying car. The Jetson's never have to deal with potholes... DAMMIT ANOTHER ONE AHHH.." Repeat process. 

To summarize, driving in Winnipeg is interesting because of the following:
1) you may as well be colour blind and not know the order of the colours on the stop lights cause no one really follows them
3) use/lack of use of manners
4) camera lights
5) my photo shoot depicting everyone's reaction to a pothole

Hope everyone is having a great St Paddy's, and since I know you're all reading this from some cool pub somewhere.... please don't drink and drive!!

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