Saturday, November 28, 2009

Go Figure

Estonians have a curious relationship with rules. There are rules most respect (private property) and rules too few respect (traffic laws). Stop signs, yield signs, and traffic lights are all still optional, and entering any intersection you better check twice for the three maniacs who will risk their lives and yours for a chance to squeak through on red. Not yellow or pink. Red.

But there is one law all seem to follow: rail crossing regulations. There may be no train in sight, but Estonians will wait until that flashing red signal turns back to white before they'll cross those tracks. Often, they'll kill their engines, get out and lean against their car doors to enjoy a cigarette. I've sat fifteen minutes with no train in sight, and I've sat even longer when a locomotive was simply idling two hundred meters from the intersection. Since I've got better things to do, but mostly since locomotives can't manage zero to 100 kph in under five seconds, I pull my car out of the line, drive around the barrier, and go merrily on my way. You should see the looks I get.

In my country, at a crossing with visibility of two kilometers in either direction, almost no one would wait on a train which can't be seen. I think we Canadians understand that in a contest between train and car, the train always wins. So is that what's behind Estonians' god-like reverence for the railway crossing? While too few have respect for another car in an intersection, are all in awe of the overwhelming power of a locomotive? Theories, anyone?


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