Thursday, July 15, 2010


"Welcome to the Balkans!", my passenger announced as we sped up and reviewed the scene that had just happened in front of us. 

It was raining hard - "like there were 3 guys standing on top of our car pouring buckets of water on the windshield" as my friend put it. The car in front of us was going slower than the oil spill recovery efforts.  And behind us was a driver who was in a Hurry. 

Speedy Gonzalez found a way around our car despite the oncoming traffic - who had to slow down to accomodate his impatience.  But he was forced to squeeze between my car and the car in front of us.  As soon as the oncoming traffic had passed, Mr. Fast tried to pass Mr. Slow but Mr. Slow crept over to the other lane (whenever possible) to keep Mr. Fast in line. 

Both my passenger and I were keeping an eye on the situation despite our conversation.  I did my best to keep a distance, but Mr. Slow was even more intent on driving slowly (and on the line) when he saw how successful he had been in irritating his opponent. 

All this was brewing as we drove on for a kilometer or two, but I couldn't have predicted the revenge in quite the way it happened. 

We were approaching an exit to our right.  Before we even got there, the speedster veered into the breakdown lane, put his elbow on the horn, his foot on the accelerator and stared at the slow driver over his shoulder as he passed. 

But then the wheels started turning in his brain and just about stopped turning on the car.  He screeched and swerved back onto the road slowing down to 5 k/hr. The slow car in front of us was forced to go even slower prompting several angry honks and creating an even bigger line behind us.  Finally, at the last second, the instigator sped off onto the exit ramp having achieved his retribution. 

And so my passenger's initial reaction was correct.  There is indeed a special breed of revenge in the Balkans.  Having just come from Hungary, but familiar with the former-Yugosloavia, he had apparently seen the creativity with which many Croats and Serbs have plotted revenge in the past.  Let's face it, most - if not all - of the conflict in the history of this part of the world comes down to payback: "Son, let me tell you what the ___________(insert ethnic group) did to your mother", for example.  And it takes generations for it to die out. 

Perhaps it never will.

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