25 November 2009

Run off the road

I think Mme Barbier, our barber, depends on me for news of the English-speaking crowd in the village. It's not as if there are very many of us, but she does seem curious. I guess she has to keep tabs on all the social categories: the vintners, the ne'er-do-wells, the church-goers, the pillars of the community, and the foreigners.

She cut my hair yesterday morning. I got there at 9:00, and there was not another customer in sight when I left at 10:00. The phone did ring at least three times while I was in the chair — Mme Barbier, who works alone, has to stop what she's doing and go answer it — and she was making appointments with people for the afternoon, along with one for Saturday. W. is going to get his haircut this morning.

Pictures from yesterday afternoon's walk in the vineyard

When I was driving back home afterward, there were a few other cars on the road that runs along the river from the village back to our road. At one point, I passed three cars in a line, going toward the village. We all had our headlights on because it had been raining. Suddenly, the third car on the other side of the road, a sporty little reddish-orange hatchback that might have been an Italian make, started drifting over the center line. I didn't see the driver, so I don't know if he or she fell asleep or was adjusting the radio or what.

Southern skies

What I did see was the car coming right at me, and coming at me long enough that I had to run off the road to avoid being hit. I was going about 40 mph, and I assume the other car was too. Luckily for me, at the point where it happened there was a wide gravel shoulder on my side. My anti-lock brakes kicked in and I slowed way down, even though I didn't come to a full stop. At least I didn't end up in a ditch or up against a tree.

The sunset yesterday

By the time I was on the gravel, the other driver had caught him- or herself and straightened out the cars trajectory. I looked in my rear-view mirror but by then I couldn't see the numbers on the license plate. The orange cars seemed to slow down but kept going, and I imagined the driver peering into his or her rear-view mirror just as I was peering into mine. What's that old country song? "I was lookin' back to see if you was lookin' back to see if I was lookin' back to see if you was lookin' back at me."


So I don't know if the car was a local one or somebody from farther away. But you can bet I'm going to keep an eye out for a bright orange hatchback over the next week or two. We have to go out today, so that will be an opportunity. Such a car shouldn't be hard to spot.

The front end of the Peugeot, intact

It's not often, fortunately, that you find yourself driving along peacefully and suddenly see a car not just straddling the center line of the road but actually coming right at you. It could easily have been a head-on collision.

That was my excitement for the week, I hope.


  1. How frightening for you. As my Dad would say, "your number wasn't up" luckily.
    Maybe the person was on the phone or even texting. Did it have UK plates? If so, it could have been a Brit who momentarily forgot where he was. It's easy to do that on deserted roads.

  2. Good questions, Jean. I wish I had seen the plates. Maybe I'll see that car when I'm out and about today and over the weekend.

  3. Holy cow. Jean, those are good suggestions, too. The texting-while-driving thing is way out of hand in the U.S. Ken, my heavens... so glad you're okay. That had to have shaken you up a bit!


  4. every driver i see now is talking on a cell phone while attempting to drive....even if they just left a store or their neighborhood....what on earth do they have to say after just leaving home anyway
    glad ur ok tho...happy thanksgiving

  5. It was a close call! Glad you're OK. Sain et sauf.

  6. Texting/phoning sounds a likely explanation to me too. You see so much erratic driving these days, and on inspection the driver often turns out to be fumbling with a cellphone (sigh). I've even seen drivers texting on the autoroute at 130 km/hour. Darwin will probably remove them from the gene pool at some point, which would be fine if they didn't take other people with them!

  7. That's so scary. Here in the country I imagine that's going to happen all of the time.
    Glad you weren't hurt!

  8. Whew! I'll add your good driving and good luck to my list of things to be thankful for.

  9. Using a cell phone while driving is not legal in France, but that doesn't stop people. I didn't see what the other driver was doing. A little late, that driver realized the car was way over the line by the time I got off the road to get out of the way. I bet the other driver was as startled and alarmed as I was.

  10. What a narrow escape! Take care! Glad you are okay!

  11. Using the phone whilst driving is commonplace in the UK even though the penalties have recently been increased. The problem is, enforcing it is almost impossible. Traffic police are virtually non-existent so people don't get caught.

    Also, we now live in a "get away with it if you can" society, where cheating the law attracts a great deal of kudos. The average driver is now rude, discourteous, selfish and constantly takes stupid risks all the time. Some drivers pull the most unbelievable stunts for no good reason.

    There are very few genuine accidents - most are crashes caused by deliberately bad driving, not by a genuine mistake or something completely unforseen happening.

  12. Jean, one of my pet irritations is our local paper reporting road accidents with the stock phrase "La route a encore tué" -- no, at least 9 times out of 10 it is the stupidity of drivers! Then there are the unforeseen roadside plane trees blamed for leaping out in front of cars being driven by drunks at 2 a.m...


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