Sunday, July 18, 2010

Driving and Property Rights in Chile

Driving here seems pretty tough. VERY aggressive drivers, and the "informal" sector is large. Some vignettes.

1. Speed limits are generally 100 km/hour, max. I've seen people blow by us at least 50 km/hr more than that. In overloaded, topheavy vans and pickup trucks.

2. In Buin, we saw a pickup truck driving the wrong way on an access road, a BUSY access road. A caribenera was standing about 20 meters away, placidly directing (actually, waving ineffectually at) traffic.

3. In Valparaiso, just up the street from the capitol building, an "entrepreneur" had placed four buckets full of water on parking spaces across from his little car wash place. Juan Pablo got out, moved one of the buckets, and parked. The guy comes over, and insists Juan Pablo pull ahead to make more room. And the guy volunteered to "protect" the car, for a fee. Now, parking is "free" on the street, but this was clearly a threat to damage the car or otherwise cause trouble. Juan Pablo paid the fee. So, in a way, nice, because it means you can park if you pay, instead of driving around looking for nonexistent "free" parking. But ... those buckets are simply theft, part of the "informal" sector that plagues Latin countries.

4. In Providencia, we pulled into a "pay" parking spot. But the guy has none of the parking permits you are supposed to buy, and there is no machine. So... Juan Pablo pays him. Now, the pay is less than the official fee, so Juan Pablo and we are better off. And the guy gets to keep the full fee, himself, so the GUY is better off. But the transaction is "informal" and none of the fee goes to el gobierno.

5. In a shopping mall, on Manquehue, we see a woman in an enormous SUV (rare here) (I mean SUVs are rare, women are quite common) try to back out. There is not much space, but she is not coming close to succeeding. (Generally, when I see a female driver and a car in reverse, I find a safe spot to watch, because it is likely to be entertaining, but peligroso). So, after three back and forths, not coming within five feet of the car behind her, she rams it into drive and goes FORWARD, over the parking curb. But this curb is a good six inches high, so she high centers the SUV. She puts it in four wheel drive, so that the front and rear tires alternately spin, and touch the ground, and pop up the front and then back of the car, like a teeter totter. The car jerks forward, until the rear wheels catch the curb. And then she is out. The whole thing, once she put it in drive, took only 4 or 5 seconds. Worth seeing.


Shawn said...

these stories cry out for video. you should be carrying around a little flip mino or a cell with video capabilities, for your readers' overall utility.

John Covil said...

Item 3 sounds like downtown Baltimore.

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