Thursday, February 5, 2009

Our Lives Are In Our Hands (But Could You Hold Mine While I Take Off My Mittens?)

It's been hard getting used to the different direction of traffic flow in Finland. However, no-one is any hurry to cross any roads here so I have plenty of time to try and kick the tiny area of my brain dedicated to actual-dimensional-orientation into gear. The rule here is that you would never even think about crossing the road before the lights have changed. So you just stand there for some time, feeling extremely safe, cloaked in a glimmering shade of dangling bicycle reflectors. You contemplate things, stuff, you stare at the empty road, and you listen to the ghostly mewing of the saddest traffic lights in the world.
However, from your safe pavement perch, you then have to make the treacherous passage to the other side, brain-sick with the knowledge that the Finnish traffic system makes absolutely no sense. What makes this (significant) part of crossing the road so nerve-tighteningly worrying is the fact that traffic is apparently allowed to go through red lights here, as long as it's around a corner. To optimise the danger of this situation, (and perhaps thus keeping the population in a state of constant terror, and the shops well-stocked with high-visibility clothing), they seem to have done everything they can to ensure that, wherever possible, the traffic lights are situated directly on corners.
And so another bus slides hard around a 90 degree ice-blackened bend, lifting my coat bottom as it goes, and I'm reminded again how lucky we all are to be alive and able to run home like children and cry, our complex psychic defenses torn down like curtains of dust, and our Muumi reflectors clutched hard to our chests like rosaries.

1 comment:

  1. Ho, the peculiar traffic lights. The traffic is even more reckless in Lahti than other parts of Finland, which isn't saying a little. I'm still confused to find that a car coming down a long street here in Belgium will stop to let me over, even though I'm standing at the crossing, presuming it will speed past.