Driving in Prague

I’ve never been into cars. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21, on my third attempt to get it. The only reason I got it that time was because my teacher was friends with my tester. I basically drove around the block in no traffic and boom, I was allowed to drive. After that I spent two months of solid driving, working as a Civil Engineer’s Assistant for the National Capital Commission during a university co-operative education gig.

My job was to drive out to sites and make sure that workers were doing their jobs properly. I was 22 or 23 at the time. Most of the workers – construction workers, pavers, surveyors, park custodians, and the like – hated my guts because I was making more money than them while driving around town in a shitty brown K-car. I could see where they were coming from and felt rather ashamed myself.

I, in turn, couldn’t stand my boss. My boss was this ginormous fat-pudding of a Quebecker named Ray. The most Ray taught me that summer was the locations of most of the Tim Hortons in the Ottawa-Hull region. Which wasn’t a bad thing since Tim Hortons coffee was, in my opinion, the best donut-shop coffee at the time.

I loathed my time with Ray. All he did was bitch about his ex-wife and talk about the movies he’d rented the night before. It is from him that I developed my knee-jerk “Don’t tell me the end!” reflex whenever somebody starts talking film. As he was a fat angry single man, I was a bit surprised (and extremely grateful) that he didn’t go on about porn.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend that much time with Ray. I think he felt the same way about me. I suppose he was pretty good at his job, but he was even better at wasting time. But of course he didn’t want a young upshot like me reporting all his time-wasting to his superiors, whether on purpose or inadvertently.

So, Ray had me doing things like parking the car in an NCC landfill by the Aviation Parkway and making sure no construction companies were dumping dirt mixed with concrete, steel, asphalt, car batteries, arsenic, uraniumÔ?? you know, contamination and shit like that. Of course, once the stuff was dumped, what could a skinny little engineering student say to a brawny hungover truck driver from, say, Pembroke or Petawawa? And how the hell was I supposed to inspect the stuff prior to dumping? Get up in the truck and wade through it?

So, I let the truckers dump whatever the hell they wanted to dump and cruised around town in my unbitchin turd-brown Reliant.

I spent four months doing pretty much nothing else. I have not even driven a bumper car since then.

Jitka has been talking a lot these days about getting a car. I’m not sure I want to make that kind of an investment. Sure the convenience as far as getting out of the city goes sounds wonderful, but soon that’s going to turn into making excuses to take the car into the centre. Of course, I’ve got nothing against having a ride home sorted when I’m out drinking, but having never been a designated driver myself, I’m not sure I can be as generous. As I don’t have my license, and don’t know how to drive a car with standard transmission, I’ll probably be able to put off driving for another little while.

But back to driving in downtown Prague. No way in hell do I want to get stuck doing that. It’s bad enough on the highways here, but in the centre? I honestly think I’d shoot somebody. When driving in Ottawa, I found myself getting pretty aggressive, and I hated feeling this way. I think it would be even worse here in Prague.

The public transport’s good enough, and I really don’t mind walking to the shops in Blackbridge. While I’ve never participated in Critical Mass, I thoroughly dig what they’re doing, and the same goes for Carfree Day.

In a recent Prague Post article, Matt Reynolds points out that in Prague “roughly one automobile cruises the street for every two city residents — more vehicles per capita than 80 percent of other European cities.” Together with other figures cited in the article, this is not alarming – it’s disgusting. I have never understood why people need cars in town. Though overcrowded and stinky at times, public transit is not all that expensive and is very well-integrated. Taking a car into town is just plain lazy and, to a certain extent, inconsiderate.

So while I may end up giving in to Jitka’s logic, I will do all I can to avoid driving in downtown Prague.

Oct 4, 06:00 (Filed under: , Personal )

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