Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Drivers of Bangkok

For all of my readers' benefit, I have identified the top five worst (categories of) drivers in Bangkok.  I have researched this personally, putting my life on the line to gather information.  Much cursing and some hand gestures were involved while interpreting the data.

This is actually interesting to me -- other than its obvious humor factor -- because there are some very clear, consistent stereotypes here.  I have not seen such clearly defined types among drivers in other places I've lived.  For example, Chinese drivers (in China) are pretty much ALL jerks, but that just carries over from the non-driving aspects of their lives.  And it's not niche behaviors like we have here in Bangkok; it's just ALL of them.  And in Ethiopia, almost none of them really understand basic driving etiquette (such as vehicles going one direction stay on one side of the road and vehicles going the opposite way stay on the other side of the road).  Again, it's just ALL of them.

Without further ado, here are the worst drivers in Bangkok:

1) City buses.  These guys seem to be incapable of staying in the left-most lane (where they are picking up and dropping off passengers (remember: Thailand drives on the left)) -- even if the lane is completely clear.  In almost every case I observed, there was exactly NO reason for them to move out of the lane most appropriate for a frequently-stopping bus.

2) Motor bikes.  These A-holes (and there are thousands of them), despite being among the most fragile vehicles on the road, play chicken with any and all comers since they know that the larger vehicle with invariably be at fault in any collision more serious than a bump.  I'm actually okay with them splitting lanes, because it generally gets them the hell out of my way.  It's when they come the wrong way down a lane and expect you to move for them, or when they just putt-putt along in a precious car-sized space (these are very precious in Bangkok) which generally leads to cars cutting in front.  Which leads us to:

3) "Gap Man."  This guy (yes, an individual) gets his own category.  I call him Gap Man.  He happens to be another American somewhere in the diplomatic mission here (I recognize the diplomatic license plates), and lives on the same street as we do, because we see him regularly on our morning commute.  Gap Man has earned his name (and my anonymous ire) because we tend to end up behind him and he LEAVES GIGANTIC GAPS in front of him while driving.  I do appreciate safety and allowing for stopping distance (my wife may disagree) but Bangkok traffic never moves faster than like 20 mph -- and those 3-5 car lengths Gap Man leaves allows everyone and their sister and her uncle and his grandma to get in front.  And then he just eases back some more.  I have yet to run a time trial (as I lack the patience) but I am convinced that Gap Man allows enough people to get ahead that it can increase the time required for a commute by at least 25% (and possibly more like 50%).

4) BMWs.  I have a theory that BMW drivers in Thailand are required to swear an oath to try to be the biggest A-holes they possibly can be on the road, before they are allowed to take the car off the dealer's premises.  Any BMW here is at least five times more likely to cut you off or refuse to move for you when they could than any other vehicle make.  I would try to pose as a potential BMW buyer to try to find proof of this "I will surpass all other A-holes" contract, but I don't think I could pull it off.

5) Mercedes.  These drivers consistently exhibit excessive caution, drive overly slowly, and are notorious gap-leavers.  Though not quite as egregious in terms of sheer acreage as Gap Man, they are greater in number and are therefore encountered more frequently.  Not as annoying as any of the previous entries, but enough to make the top five.

One last thing of note: I have seen more high-end cars (Lamborghinis, Ferraris, etc.) here driving on city streets than any other place I have lived.  The most interesting part about that to me is these drivers don't seem to exhibit any of the problems listed above.  They're not over-cautious; they're not A-holes.  They seem to be regular, average drivers just trying to get from point A to point B.  In a Lamborghini.

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