Speed limits and stop signs are also optional. I personally have rarely seen someone getting a speeding ticket (see #3). Going too slow is actually a hazard here, so speed up. You must be going at least 20 miles over the speed limit.
2. Someone is being too cautious for your liking? Just pass them! Are you in a designated turning lane with no arrow (or a red light!), waiting to make a left hand turn across 4 lanes of traffic? If the person in front of you is too skittish and hesitant, just pass them and dodge into oncoming traffic. I mean, they'll have to stop, right?
On highways, passing on the right and left is okay. If you're a slow driver, it's okay to be in the furthest left lane, and vice versa.
3. If you're a police officer, just drive with your lights on constantly. You're not actually pulling anyone over. It doesn't matter if the person in front of you is about to have an epileptic seizure, you just need to look cool and assert your authority, damnit! Not to mention, the lights alert everyone that you're coming... I mean, you don't want to have to stop playing Angry Birds to actually pull someone over, right?!
You probably won't get stopped for anything here. Unless you forget to renew your registration. Then you will be stopped within hours, fined and ticketed, get your license plate taken away, and given a date in court. No joke, this just happened to me.
|Oh, I'm not actually pulling you or anyone over. I'm just going to annoyingly tailgate you with my awesome flashing lights for about 15 minutes, and then I'll pass you! This is especially cool at night!|
5. Arrows are strange alien symbols. This one REALLY grinds my gears, and everyone does it. I have gotten into numerous arguments with friends who do it all the time. I present to you the following scenario, which happens specifically at an intersection right by my house EVERY TIME I go through it to make a left to go home, wherein I am in the left hand ONLY turning lane, with an arrow. There are three lanes. But sometimes this turning lane has a few cars in it. So the logical thing to do is to use the next lane over, which you cannot turn from, right? So you stop there, waiting to turn too. Causing the people who want to go STRAIGHT, to have to move into the next lane. Then, you must cut in front of EVERYONE who is actually in the turning lane:
Of course, there are also cars in the opposite direction who are trying to turn too. And this road is small, and hilly, and full of potholes, just in case it wasn't exciting enough for you! So traffic ALWAYS forms because everyone from the lanes that aren't supposed to be turning are trying to merge onto this narrow street, all while not getting stuck in a giant crater in the ground! And it's steep, so of course, that's always fun when there is an inch of space between you and the car behind you and you have to stop and start up again, hoping not to roll backwards hitting him! This can occur even from the furthest right lane as well.
By the way, the lack of understanding about what an arrow means also applies to ONE WAY STREETS. Just go whatever direction you feel like! Also, suddenly need to go the other way? Just make a U-turn! Those silly signs saying no U-turn don't mean anything? After all, arrows are alien code! Extra points if you make a U-turn into oncoming traffic on red!
6. Bored while driving? Driving is the perfect time to gab with your girlfriends, send that e-mail, put on your mascara and eyeliner, fix your dubi or rollers, or even knit that sweater you've been working on (swear to god!) All while eating your alcapurria and blasting the lastest reggaetón or salsa hit! Even better if you are doing all of them at once!
7. Turn signals and brake lights are so last century. Don't use your turn signal. Ever. People are smart, they need to keep up! You just change lanes and make turns and cause accidents, who cares? You're the one in front! Also, when some poor lost soul does use their turn signal to merge or change lanes, you must teach them the error of their ways and purposely speed up so they can't get in.
If you use your turn signal to indicate that you "called" the parking space someone is about to leave, you're just asking for it! It's not finders-keepers, it's whoever can pull in faster!
Also, don't worry if your brake lights aren't working. It's perfectly safe, and nobody will stop you anyway! This also goes for side view mirrors, head lights, and taillights.
8. White diamond lanes are NOT carpool lanes. Anyone who lives in a place that uses a white diamond, such as California, to indicate carpool or HOV lanes, the white diamond in PR does not mean the same thing. I accidentally made this mistake the first time I drove here and narrowly avoided an accident, learning the hard way!
9. Parking. Of course, lines to indicate parking spaces are just pretty little decorations someone painted on the ground, just like any traffic signs and pedestrian crossings, right? You must do your very best to take up as many parking spaces as humanly possible. Also, parking straight and well-aligned is so overrated! If Plaza Las Américas (the biggest mall in the Caribbean) gets too packed at Christmas time, feel free to invent your own parking space, even if you block a lane and not even a bicycle can get through! Sidewalks, someone else's drive way, yellow lined curbs, handicap spaces all are valid too!
You may also double or triple park, or park your vehicle in a moving traffic lane, thus blocking traffic. Getting your empanadilla at the roadside stand is way more important!
10. Have a tire budget. It is very possible you will spend more money on tires than gas. In the year I've had my car, I have had over 4 flat tires. The road conditions are not always the greatest because of the rain, so potholes, sometimes more like craters, abound! You must begin to make a visual roadmap of where the potholes are on your commonly traveled roads to remember to avoid them, like you're in a video game!
A note about road conditions: In very rural areas, unpaved roads are common, which are a joy when it rains. Also, painted lines marking the separation of different lanes tend to fade on highways even in San Juan, so lanes are not always clearly marked.
12. Horns are musical instruments. Feel free to honk them whenever you feel like it. Especially in traffic just for the heck of it. The more the merrier! Honking your horn is OBLIGATORY as soon as the light is turning green, if the person doesn't move within the first nanosecond or inching up while the light is still red.
13. The word "merge" doesn't exist in Spanish. You must force yourself into traffic at all costs. You must not let anyone else in, for that matter. You have the right to cut in between any two vehicles you choose. Feel free to stop moving traffic on a 3 lane highway in order to change lanes to get where you need to be! Do not leave more than 2 inches of space between you and the car in front of you, or someone WILL force their way in.
14. Driving is the best place to meet people and catch up! See a friend going the other direction on a two lane narrow street? Feel free to just stop and have a conversation and shoot the breeze! Why not share a cup of coffee while you're at it? People behind you can find alternate routes; after all, that bochinche is too juicy to pass up! Same goes for hitting on jevas (girls) walking by.
15. Fake out everyone while turning! When making a turn, you must make a pretend to turn in the opposite direction as wide as possible, and then swerve the opposite way in the last second! Extra points in parking lots!
16. Driving is a great time to release your anger! All of these things might bring on some road rage. So naturally, you need to flip the bird, honk your horn, maybe even get out or your car, all while threatening and saying insulting things like:
-Mamao, adónde tú vas!?
-Bicho es! Ni pal carajo te voy a dejar entrar!
-Me cago en la chocha pelú!
Of course, do this at your own risk. You probably don't want to get shot, after all. Funnily, my road rage is completely in Spanish now, even when I'm the States!
17. When you cause an accident, DENY DENY DENY! It wasn't your fault you were talking on your cell phone and didn't see the person in front of you had stopped! Start immediately insulting the people with whom you were in the accident, waving your hands and pointing fingers.
18. Don't actually know how to get anywhere. First off, street names and route numbers are superfluous. Nobody knows what those things are. When giving directions, say things like:
Keep going straight. when you see the place that used to be the old Fulano's Pharmacy, make a left. Then, when you see the tecato (homeless drug addicts, normally asking for money) in the red shirt on the street corner, make a right. Sigue por ahí pa'bajo until you come to your second Burger King and the third Walgreens. Then you go like 2 minutes and you're there.
No criticism intended, but, I have found that locals don't have the best sense of direction. I have only been here a year, am not that great with directions, but when driving in caravan, many times I end up leading a group of Puerto Rican friends who have lived here their whole life, to get to somewhere fairly well-known. Yes, it's that bad! I think the mentality is, if you get lost, don't worry. De la Isla no te vas a salir! (You're not going to leave the Island!)
19. You must pay the tecato toll. Speaking of tecatos, it's probably a good idea to keep some change on you. They really don't do anything and are pretty harmless, most of them are too strung out to even realize what's going on, but they will probably walk by your car at red lights and give you a sad face with an empty Subway cup. If you don't have change or don't want to contribute to their next hit, just shrug your shoulders and say something like, "Acho mano, no tengo chavo!" and they will probably keep going.
If you want to avoid them all together, the best tried-and-true trick, tested by yours truly, is to pull out your cell phone and become really engaged in your conversation Pretend you just got some really great gossip, or found out your boyfriend is cheating on you. Hit the steering wheel a few times and talk loudly and they won't even look twice. Swear to god., works every time.
However, it is necessary to pay the tecato when he is being 'helpful' and 'saving' you a parking space or 'helping' you park. After all, he knows where your car is. If you pay him the tecato toll, he'll make sure nobody touches your car. If you don't, you might come back to find some fancy new artwork painted with a key over your vehicle.
20. Strange conversions. Just like the confusing political situation of the island, things are kind of confusing here. Like Gasoline is measured in liters. Speed limits are posted in Miles per hour. Distances are all marked in Kilometers. Keep that in mind when driving here!
21. Enjoy the scenery, it's not too bad! The good thing is, these rules are universal here. Because you know what to expect from drivers, there actually aren't too many accidents. Puerto Rico does not have the worst driving I've seen, by a long shot (I'm looking at you, Morocco!) And most parts of the Island give you such breathtaking scenery while driving, so just enjoy!
|View from the road on the way to Old San Juan|