Shutdown season!

Shutdown season brings with it a considerable amount of plus points, even when I’m not the one directly benefitting from the actual holiday. Yes ladies and gentlemen, while three-quarters of the island (Malta, south of Sicily) seems to be in a peaceful slumber I remain here, slogging away at your service.

So where am I seeing these plus points, I hear you ask. The short reply is “on the road, every single blessed day of August”.  Whereas during July, the drive to Valletta always takes at least thirty minutes – forty, during school months by the way – as soon as the second week of August hit it was one straight breeze at an average of 80kmph with no stops on the way. The last time I clocked was fifteen minutes and that was only because someone decided to stop their car to have a chat on their phone while parked on one of the main arteries. Huzzah, as Blackadder would say.

I love the way the whole concept of Ferragosto seems to be rubbing off on us islanders courtesy of our neighbours. Sure, there’s the sticky heat to contend with but fact remains that everyone seems to be happier and more relaxed this month. I can practically feel the good cheer vibes as I’m walking (well, sauntering) down the road. Of course, all the good vibes also bring with them a certain reluctance to get out of bed in the morning and pretend that I too am on holiday. But that’s nothing a good, strong cappuccino and a good dose of happy music can’t fix.

Only two things are guaranteed to ruin my August mood on the road. Getting stuck behind student drivers, horse cabs and/or rubbish trucks. Fine, that’s three. Please don’t call me a party-pooper, but even with everyone’s happy vibes all three are guaranteed to give me an ulcer when I encounter them on the road during rush hour. The last two words are the keywords: I’m very well aware that kids have to take driving lessons and that our rubbish needs collecting at some point during the day.

But seriously, is rush hour the best time for this? Isn’t there some bright spark in some government department somewhere who realises that between 07:00 and 08:30 is actually the worst time to place obstacles on our roads. And yes, both qualify as obstacles. This is the time of day when every seasoned driver will be quite happy to pull out a gun, if one were available, and shoot anyone fool enough to add an extra five minutes to the journey to work. The reason being that most of us are already late enough without adding outside variables to the equation. I hear you point out that this makes it our fault. Balderdash, I say. As soon as you place a horse cab or a student driver in our path, the fault becomes totally theirs.

Students can practice their driving skills happily anytime between 09:00 and 17:00 (the afternoon rush hour kicks off at that time). As for horse cabs, I really wish someone would find an alternative employment for the owners during the summer months. No animal should be made to labour under the kind of temperatures that our summer brings with it. We’ve heard a lot of talk about providing shelters and what not (not that these have materialised as yet) but the reality is that making a horse trot around in a temperature that hovers somewhere around the mid-thirties is plain and simple cruelty.

That takes care of my first two complaints. The third one should also be a no-brainer: is rush hour the best time for a rubbish truck to block narrow roads in a village core? I’ve been known to get stuck for a good ten minutes behind these trucks with no way of overtaking. Let’s use a bit of common sense, shall we…she said, while totally forgetting that common sense is not common at all.

This blog was published on The TV Guide (Times of Malta) on August 27.

© Ramona Depares 2011. All rights reserved.