I always heard the French had a temper but never understood that until now. Through many observations, we have come to realize the temper is not necessarily anger that gets turned into rage, but rather a hissy fit. We see it mostly in men. Nick describes it as grown men throwing a temper tantrum, acting like five-year olds. These fits are mostly observed in the car, and we’ve seen it from both sexes; although, the women act a little differently: They’re catty.
At our current place in Aix-en-Provence, many cars drive through our narrow street to get to a parking garage at Place des Cardeurs. And because these streets can only fit one car at a time, it can cause a problem. When people are moving, loading and unloading whatever possessions it may be, they have no choice but to park with their blinkers on. This then causes a problem because the next person that comes along who wants to pass can’t. This traffic jam happens at least once a day, and we hear the repetitive honking.
We usually peek out of the window to observe the commotion, and it’s always the guy behind that decides to lay down on the horn even though the person is loading heavy furniture to and from the vehicle. We saw a guy grow impatient with some movers. Even though the driver saw his fellow citizens unloading furniture, it did not stop him from honking at them. Despite knowing they were moving heavy furniture, it was as if he was expecting them to stop right away so they could move the truck for him to get through. After honking for some time, the guy backed up and drove away as he revved the engine and accelerated away in a fit. If the person cannot back up because of other cars behind, the honking continues until the car in front moves. We’ve witnessed this scenario numerous times.
In other scenarios, we’ve seen a person parking at the beginning of the street and when another guy pulls up wanting to turn into the street, that guy throws a fit instead of driving to the next street to get to his destination. Aside from being convenient, it’s not like our street is the only way to get around. This particular scenario happened yesterday. We looked outside to observe and saw one of the honkers get out of the car. He yelled at Nick thinking it was his car, shouting and throwing up his arms. “Mister! Mister! Is this your car? Come move it!” We watched bewildered, not responding, and then the guy went back into the car and honked some more. Finally, the owner of the car returned with painting supplies to move his car. As he got into his car, the impatient honker continued to lay his hands down on the horn, honking until the owner drove away.
In Paris, we only saw this type of behavior when someone decides to double park and block someone else. Apparently, you can park anywhere if your car fits and if you’re not blocking oncoming traffic. If you’re blocking someone and if the owner of the car returns needing to get out, it is common that the individual will be honking until you come out to move the car.
But, what we don’t get is why drivers don’t honk at pedestrians who are jaywalking. Jaywalking is big here, and I’m not talking about the type where you look first and cross. This does happen, but there is another kind of jaywalking: It is common for people to dart out at moving traffic, causing drivers to slow down or slam on their brakes. There have been many close calls where someone could have gotten hit. And it’s not just one person that does this — herds of people cross in front of oncoming traffic. We observed this both in Paris and Aix.
We will be driving to Nice over Labor Day weekend, and we expect to be honked at and tailgated on the road. We’ve heard we can’t avoid this. Accidents are common, and our priority is to stay safe on the road. So, we’ll have to learn the road rules and hope that our little road trip goes smoothly.