Friday, March 04, 2005

A small moment of sharing

The city where I grew up, Montreal, is arguaby home to some of the world's most aggressive drivers. They stop for no reason and no one. Emergency vehicles fight for road real estate just like everyone else, and that's the way I always thought it was. Until I moved here, that is.

London drivers are quite a bit more docile. They actually seem to take the time to read the code of the road. Including the part where they pull over to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Even if said emergency vehicles are on the other side of the road. And across a median. It doesn't seem to matter: cars pull over and stop as soon as the flashing lights appear. It's really quite heartening to see community-minded behaviors so universally applied.

So as I drove to a meeting tonight, no less than five fire trucks, all a minute or two apart, came flying up the road toward me. The line of cars I was in dutifully pulled over at the first sight of the red and white flashing lights, and stayed on the side of the road, signals on, as the parade passed. When a final rescue vehicle crested the hill a couple of minutes later, everyone repeated the dance and headed back to the side of the road.

All I could think of as I watched the road magically clear out on both sides was that if it was my house and my family at risk, how glad I would be to know that everyone pitched in without so much as a second thought.

It took a few dozen motorists a few seconds longer to reach their destinations tonight. But because of them - not to mention the heroes who drove helter skelter over ice-covered roads to reach the stricken home - a family was likely able to hold on to the only destination that mattered to them.

A small thing for some. A much bigger deal for others. Sometimes, people really can change the world.


Dean said...

Here in Vancouver, everybody pulls over, but then once the emergency vehicle has passed, a significant portion pull back out quickly and put their foot to the floor, hoping to cut people off. It's a dangerous practice.

Photominer said...

I find most pull over here in Vancouver, but there are always some who don't know what to do and stay frozen in the middle of an intersection or don't get out of the way. I liked driving in Montreal, I drive in reverse down the one-ways, great shortcuts!

Chris said...

Having spent my formative years in Montreal, I remember well my parents' cautionary tales of driving there. I had the opportunity to experience it for myself about 10 years ago, and while I think I acquitted myself fairly well (I made it from the downtown core to the farthest reaches of the west island and back without killing anyone, in other words), it's not an experience I'm in a rush to repeat. The thing that impressed me the most was the complete lack of lines on the roads. I realize there is a rational explanation for this - the winters, with their ice, salt and snowplows take a heavy toll on road surfaces - but I suspect the real reason the lines aren't repainted every spring is because no one would use them anyhow. Line-free roads are much more flexible - you can have 2, 3, 4, or even 5 lanes of traffic, as needed. I eventually stopped worrying about it and just aimed my car for the emptiest space closest to the general direction I was trying to go.

SeeingDouble said...

The Webwench sent me! I wanted to say this is a big deal in the US, though not always observed. My husband is an EMT, and the one thing he tells people is "Just because the lights aren't on, doesn't mean I'm not working on someone in the back." They can only run lights and sirens for a code. We're supposed to pull over for ANY emergency vehicle, but no one does without lights/sirens. Great blog, I'm enjoying my visit!

Unknown said...

My husband and I considered moving to the little town of Stratford, Ontario (from Washington, DC area) because of the nice, laid back attitude in addition to the polite drivers, not so many people, not to mention the theater itself...ah nice memories from this past summer's visit.