Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hey Baby, Wanna Park?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a magical fairyland where the laws of physics do not apply.

Right now, all of my expat readers are groaning and muttering to themselves. "Dammit, she's going to do that stupid 'Foreigners Drive Like Maniacs' article that everyone writes when they're completely out of ideas." Perhaps they're already switching over to Wil Wheaton's blog (yes, he has one).

So let me clarify. Bosnian driving is fairly straightforward. So far, the only quirk I have found is that Bosnian drivers don't signal until after they've already begun to turn, at which point, well, the secret's out. Bosnians are courteous and sane drivers. However, once Bosnians exit their cars, they go completely and absolutely random.

Bosnian parking, for example, is pretty weird. Very few parking lots have painted lines, so people just sort of squeeze in where they can. Right now, my Subaru is at a 45-degree angle, straddling a Dumpster on one side and the curb on the other. This is normal. Vehicle size is not a consideration: sometimes you will find a VW Golf taking up the equivalent of four parking spaces, while an SUV will angle itself tail-first, rear up on its hind legs, and squeeze into a three-foot-square patch of grass. Forty-five degree angles are preferred. The average Sarajevo parking lot looks like the aftermath of an apocalyptic battle between Godzilla and Mothra.

(History disclaimer: car ownership rose after the war, but many parking facilities were destroyed and building new ones has proved expensive. However, it's more fun to think of Bosnia as a place that ignores the laws of physics.)

Bosnians also save a little bit of random for their walking. Crosswalks are ignored, and they still zigzag as they go down the sidewalk. As you drive, you must wait for the pedestrian light to change to "Don't Walk", as that is the exact moment when pedestrians will flood the street. (History disclaimer: during the war, Sarajevans learned to walk in zigzags and avoid crosswalks to dodge snipers.)

But far and away the weirdest thing about Bosnia is its dumpsters. A Bosnian dumpster is lightweight, has wheels, and is in no way anchored to the ground. When the wind is high, they will occasionally make a jailbreak and skitter across the roadway. I've seen this happen, and it's really funny when it's from a distance. However, when the Dumpster of Death headed my way one time, I just about died of shock. (Coming soon on Fox: When Dumpsters Attack!)

I must say that Bosnia's randomness is sort of endearing. The potential of Death by Dumpster makes me feel like I'm roaming the African plains every time I get in my car, rather than going to the store for a liter of milk. And it's liberating to park anywhere and any way you want, even without diplomatic license plates. Bosnia is egalitarian in that way - illegal parking has been brought to the masses!

My Fame Spreads: This here blog was mentioned in the January 2006 issue of Foreign Service Journal. Now all I need is a fan club, a box of Girl Scout Cookies, and a table saw, and my plans for world domination are complete!


Michael J. West said...

What on Earth do you need the Girl Scout Cookies for?

Shannon said...

For my nefarious plans for world domination, of course. You can't conquer the Earth without Thin Mints. Sheesh.

Dina said...

Ooooo, and March is coming up!

Consul-At-Arms said...

Congratulations on your FSJ mention!

Shannon said...

Thanks! I've never been famous before. However, as I've never actually seen anyone read FSJ, I'm not sure how big a deal that is.