Driving Winnipeg

There are a few stereotypes that plague Winnipeg drivers. We don’t know how to merge, we think four-wheel-drive is the solution to all our winter problems and we don’t use turn signals. Being from Winnipeg means speed limits are really only a suggestion, and you’re willing to go 10 km over, even with a foot of snow. Maybe this is what spirited energy gets you, but maybe a little too much “spirited energy” is what resulted in seven different names for one street being alright. Driving in Winnipeg is an experience all its own, but once you’ve lived here, Confusion Corner isn’t so bad, and the multiple names for Route 90 and Osborne come to you like second nature. That being said, I got a GPS for Christmas last year — yes, even a Winnipeg lifer like me can get lost in this small-scale city.

Winnipeggers hold on to things as long as they can. Who doesn’t still cheer for the Jets, knowing that one day they will come back? Or stood outside a bar freezing because you had to hold on to your money and refuse to pay for coat check? This apparent loyalty is really our inability to accept change, change like changing lanes. We see that little merge sign but who doesn’t stop when you reach one, knowing that there isn’t a chance in hell the other driver is going to give a rip that you also are trying to get to work. The most comical thing I have ever seen, though, is a turning signal, just begging for the traffic to let you in. You don’t use a turning signal to change lanes, but here you do? It’s beautiful.

There are simply certain expectations a Winnipegger has when they get behind the wheel. If you live in Charleswood and have left your house in the early morning (or arrived home in the early morning), you know to expect a few deer. If you’ve ever driven the perimeter, you know to expect a few deer. And — sometimes worse than the damage of a deer — if you’ve ever driven here you know to expect the ever-present pothole. The only escape we see is during the winter, when the potholes are filled.

That brings me to Winnipeg’s winter driving. The sight of snow falling from the sky has a number of effects on drivers. Some of them have to do with our perspective on how weather really affects the road and are partially based on what kind of car we drive. If you’ve got a junker, you know it, and you may be better off taking the bus than hoping you’ll find a spot where you can plug your lemon in. If you drive anything with four-wheel-drive, you likely think you’re invincible. How you drive and what you drive are definitely related, but all Winnipeggers know that there is really no such thing as a snow day, until you can’t open your front door.

Now, if you’re driving your mother’s minivan you may understand that you need to slow it down a pinch with slick streets and snow falling. No matter what you’re driving, it is ridiculous for you to drive 20 km under the speed limit, and then run a red. If you’ve ever been caught behind someone going 40 down Portage, you know the rage felt when you get stopped at the red light they just ran. This may just be my biggest pet peeve.

Another pet peeve: drunk driving. Cabs are pricy, but guess what? So is booze! This is why I am such a supporter of Operation Red Nose. I can’t wait to have some of the drunk drivers off the roads. Winnipeggers don’t like to hork up the coin for a cab or bother to make other arrangements. We just want to go to our friend of a friend’s social and enjoy our weekend. I’ve got nothing against good times, but seeing your car meander its way across all four lanes trying to find its way to your house is one of the most pitiful sights of the night.

Winnipeg drivers know that when you’re driving down any major road you may have to go into the slow lane to drive faster. Knowing the transit system, you’re almost shocked to even find a bus in the bus lane. Besides, the bus never seems to even be running when you’re waiting for it mid-January in -50 when your car didn’t start that morning. You also know that from downtown to Polo Park you will find the roads flooded with cars on Sunday night. Not because of a concert, no big door crashing sales — people are just taking part in a Sunday night cruise. You also know that you may be better off taking an alternate route, unless you like driving beside local law enforcement. Anyone with a need for speed, and not interested in taking part, is better off avoiding the whole thing.

The strongest trait for Winnipeg drivers, though, must be how pissed off we get at the person who cut into our lane and never even bothered to wave. It’s a courtesy wave. Even if you never intended to let the person in, the wave numbs the anger. And if you just cut a fellow ‘Pegger off, you know that wave is really equal to a slap in the face, but it’s really better than no wave at all. It’s “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason, whether the friendly face is sarcastic or not, welcome to Winnipeg.