Friday 27th August.
On Tuesday it was raining in the morning but I wanted to get bread and croissants so I put on my rain mac and went to see Munster. It’s not very far to the shops and restaurants (as per our priorities) but there are lots of little streets to cross. I hadn’t gone very far when I started to feel uneasy. I couldn’t work out what it was, but it was getting worse the closer I got to the town. And then I realised…it was the traffic! The traffic was on the wrong side of the road!
(Traffic in Munster)
I’m not kidding (or stupid ;-?), I always knew the French drove on the right but knowing it and KNOWING it are two different things. I know traffic, I grew up in Cashel, the seat of the kings of Munster (the other one), a town that had traffic jams in the 60’s (when Cork were playing in Thurles or Croke Park). On the main Cork to Dublin road every truck delivery between the two cities had to pass through our town. It could take me 10 minutes at the age of 8 to get across the road to the pub to buy loose mikado (biscuits, not drink!) and another 10 to get back. All that waiting and looking and false starting taught me well. Every part of the experience was ingrained in my psyche so that today I can cross any road with just a quick glance to check. Not here!
When we learn something we use previous learned experiences to build on and thus we don’t have to learn every task from the beginning again. We make assumptions and then build on them. So I learned and now assume that when I face a road the cars closest to me come from the right. I learned to look right first and if that was clear look left and if that was clear start to walk while paying most attention towards my right until the middle of the road and then shifting my attention to the left when I had reached the mid-point. By the age of nine I was probably doing this automatically.
But here in France I am using the same old assumption and it is just not working! No wonder I feel disturbed! But now that I know, it should be fine, right? Well not yet….
When I stop to cross the road I automatically look right and I’m assuming if a car is coming on that side it will be coming towards me, but no, if there is a car on that side then it is moving away from me.
In the end I kept saying to myself “Look left! Look left!”
I was looking at a video about a guy who studies brains and computers. He says the measure for intelligence is not behaviour. He says the measure of a brain’s intelligence is its ability to predict what might happen next. I think that’s why I was feeling uneasy. I am uneasy because my prediction about where the traffic is coming from is incorrect! I cannot predict the next moment in regard to this road crossing experience. My brain is no longer intelligent in this situation. So… I’m going to take my time and look both ways and maybe ask a small child to help me cross!