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Driving on De Islan’ – or – De Green Blob Bumper Car

June 14, 2011

Look OUT!


Oh my GOD!

These are common exclamations from the Pheebs as we drive aroun’ de islan’. We’ve rented a Mazda 2 for island service – a neat little car with every option known to man.

Tilt/cruise/stereo/air/keyless entry – you name it, this little bugger has it.  We call it the Green Blob.  Our goal is the inverse of bumper car etiquette – we’re attempting to drive it without running into, or being hit by, anyone. The problem is everyone else is driving bumper cars.

Seems that straight body panels are the exception, rather than the rule.

How does this happen, you ask?



Back when roads were first paved on Guam, the construction company used the only aggregate they had on hand – crushed coral.  Coral, by its very nature is quite slippery when wet – pave a road with it and sprinkle with water (which happens here on days ending in the letter “Y”) and you get something with a coefficient of friction equivalent to a glass plate smeared with dog snot.

Brakes don’t work so good on dog snot, and cars have a tendency to go straight on otherwise curvy roads.

Almost all auto fatalities on Guam are supposedly single car accidents – makes sense if you’ve ever experienced a dog snot roadway.

The remedy preventing Guam drivers becoming a single car statistic is to enter and exit a roadway slowly.  This last word cannot be emphasized enough…when I say slow, I mean slower-than-an-old-lady-with-a-wobbly-walker slow.

Now to make things interesting, Guam has speed limits of 25 and 35 MPH on all roads.  This should make things safer, right?

Wrong.  Guamanians (or perhaps more accurately, Guamaniacs) are always  in a hurry to get somewhere.  Speed limits are merely suggestions; multiply by a factor of two to get the upper limit of the most expedient of drivers.

I have been passed – no shit – on Marine Corps drive by drivers doing 70 MPH.  It’s a 35 MPH road.

So – toss into this melee a bunch of leadfoots working their way towards wherever whilst folks idle on and off the main thoroughfare at the mind-numbingly slow speed of 2 MPH – and bad things are gonna happen.  Remember – the pavement is almost always wet somewhere – thus creating dog snot.

My solution?

Remote locations and signage discouraging potential metal-to-metal contact.

Local drivers also have a pathological fear of two things: speed bumps and potholes.  A leadfoot can be bombing along at freeway speeds, but if he spies a roadway imperfection, he’ll slam on the brakes, often coming to a FULL FREAKING STOP before assuming Guam hazard speed (see old lady with walker comment, above).  Unfortunately, the driver behind doesn’t always get the message – and dog snot facilitates the inevitable.

The wacky unpredictability of it all requires fighter jet pilot concentration.

The local law enforcement community realizes this is an issue – so they approach it with typical Guamanian aplomb.  Their solution?

Pedestrian speed traps.

No – I’m not making this up.  They don bright orange and yellow vests, set up a radar tripod  on the side of the road, and stand in the middle of the street, waving offenders over!

I dunno about you – but a guy wearing a yellow ‘POLICE” vest in the middle of the road is a pretty obvious indication there’s a speed trap.  Not hard to slow down to 35 MPH, either.  I actually had one of these guys attempt to wave me over recently (I was going the speed limit),I shook my head “NO” and kept on driving.

He just shrugged.  I guess pursuit was out of the question.

While I’m not proud of it – it’s the first time I’ve avoided the long arm of the law – at a walking pace.

Yes – it’s quite a challenge keeping body panels straight and true here on de islan’.  I’ve seen (but have yet to photograph) two locals stopping on a two lane road to chat – each going an opposite direction.  Very island-ish; very dangerous, too.

This is all too much for the Pheebs; the stress of simply being a passenger is a bit overwhelming.  Her solution?

1. Drink beer.

2 Repeat step 1 – twice.

3. Buckle one’s self firmly in the middle of the back seat.

Chuckle madly as the Guamaniacs re-arrange their collective bodywork on the mad dash to wherever.

It’s never dull driving on de islan’.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2011 1:07 am

    So much traffic. yet such a challenge. I would love to say I had driven in Guam. And survived.

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      June 14, 2011 1:13 am

      Italy’s drivers are more aggressive; the psychosis of Guam drivers is the same one bombing along at 30+ miles over the speed limit one moment will reduce forward motion to a crawl the next.

      It’s just soo damned unpredictable.

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