Posted by: The Amoeba | February 25, 2009

The Wonderfulness of American Drivers

I was going to post on a completely different topic, but Quilly and Thom have been getting into it over the foibles of drivers and pedestrians here in Paradise (a failing to which your friendly neighborhood Amoeba is also subject). And that reminded me …

As a writer with real talent once wrote, the story I’m about to relate makes a better recitation than a blog post. However, James Thurber made do with words on paper, so I’ll just have to do what I can.

A bunch of us (not the bunch in the post I’ve cited here, but – oh hell, it’s when the teachers of this bunch were among the students, back when elephants had fur) …

As I was saying. A bunch of us were on a field trip, gathered around a campfire and complaining venomously about how lousy and inconsiderate American drivers were. One of the professors of the class, a visiting scientist from what was then West Germany, passed around a bottle of schnapps (guaranteeing him our attention) and disagreed. “Oh, no, American drivers are the most attentive, patient, and courteous drivers I have ever seen!”

We thought that maybe the bottle of schnapps in our hands wasn’t the first one (we’ll call him) Günther had seen that night, and said so. “Ah, but I have proof!“, he said. And he proceeded to tell us about one day on the Autobahn in southern Germany.

This particular Autobahn was of the two-lane, two-way variety, not a divided highway like most freeways in the US are now. The road consisted of the two travel lanes, a shoulder on each side, and, on the other side of each shoulder, a car-devouring ditch and embankment. The speed limit was … well, in those days, there wasn’t one.

And our mild-mannered, bespectacled Günther was on it in a Beetle.

Now, for those of you out there for whom “hippie” is ancient history. The “People’s Car” was quite good enough to get a body from point A to point B, but it wouldn’t set any speed or maneuverability records while doing so. And, as Bill Cosby once pointed out, “if you have a head-on collision with a dog, you lose.”

So here is Günther in his Beetle, puttering along at around 100 kph (ca. 60 mph), which is about as fast as an original-version VW Bug will go without filing a grievance, when over the crest of a hill about a kilometer (0.6 miles) away, a car appears, going the other direction. Four of them, in fact. All of them high-powered Mercedes-Benz sedans, racing down the Autobahn towards Günther at more than 180 kph (115 mph).

Side by side.

Yep. That means what it says. Between the two car-devouring ditch-and-embankment complexes on this two-way Autobahn there are two travel lanes, each one bounded by a shoulder lane. And each one of the four lanes has a Mercedes in it, each one of which is in a moving dead heat with the other three.

Günther considered his options, in all of which the line if you have a head-on collision with a dog, you lose featured prominently. He could not stay where he was. He could not go into the ditch and expect to survive – and even then, the berm might not have been wide enough to spare him a glancing blow from one of those muscle cars. He could not go up – Ferdinand Porsche having neglected to equip his design with helicopter blades. He could not go down – no atomic-powered shovels in the toolkit either.

Günther didn’t mention water on the floor, or his life passing before his eyes. But either or both were likely under the circumstances, and no one would have thought less of him. Or of whatever was left after the Mercedes got through with him. He was in the process of closing his eyes and preparing himself for impact when …

The cars vanished.

Actually, they didn’t, as the sound effects produced by the driver’s side door of Günther’s car announced.


At the proverbial last possible moment, the four Mercedes had pulled into single file, into the travel lane in which they were supposed to have been in the first place, and raced past the quaking VW and its quaking occupant.

As Günther attempted to regain his equilibrium and resume his journey, he chanced to look through his rear-view mirror.

His four Mercedes antagonists roared on down the Autobahn to their destination, whatever it was.

Side by side.

Günther ended his story and took a pull from the schnapps bottle, confident that his proof had won the argument.

It had.

  O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions expressed are mine, as a private citizen.



  1. That was about the best 90 proof I’ve ever heard. Danke schon

  2. How come you won’t let me drive like that?

  3. Uh Oh…that’s as far as I go with my German and Quilly…your a woman…you all drive like that…OOPS!!! Plenty men to also…wheeew…hope that kept me on the safe side

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