Even if you don’t drive yourself, in Beijing pretty soon you learn to spot the xīnshǒu (新手), literally the “new hands”, the greenhorns, the folks that made it through cryptic questions and an irrelevant “road” test and now possess that coveted, slightly-too-big-for-a-credit-card-slot, laminated green card that entitles them, for the next six years…
- to drive around the 47 cars waiting in the left turn lane and position themselves in front of the first car, even if that means placing themselves in the middle of an intersection during a red light
- to reverse for 500m in the right lane of the freeway after passing the exit ramp they decided was appropriate after stopping and deliberating (in lane) for several minutes
- to maneuver their car through a 10-minute long, 17-point U-turn on a street hardly wide enough for bicycle traffic
I don’t believe that exhausts the possibilities.
[For the record: None of us should scold this behavior. You know you’re happy when your cab driver does it.]
The funny thing about new drivers is that their presence is advertised all over the place. The ubiquitous 实习 (shíxí = “in training”) sticker is required by law for a year after you get your license. But it’s usually pretty useless for spotting the newbies. The real “new hands” you can identify by their body/vehicle language: hesitant, so very hesitant; stopping for no reason; proceeding in reverse as if they’re on a bomb defusing assignment.
So it was kind of amusing, while waiting an eternity for one such “new hand” to pull out from a parking spot, to see that it had this bumper sticker:
You’ll just have to believe me that it says “才上路，让让我把”. This is what you get by combining the world’s worst photographer with a rainy windshield.
Cái shàng lù, ràng ràng wǒ bǎ
just on road, yield a bit to me [roughly word for word]
New to the road, give me a bit of a break [rough gloss]
Feel free to help fix the awkward translation of 让让. “Yield” is too imperative — I think overall the bumper sticker has kind of a cutesy “forgive my awful driving” feel to it.
But what caught my eye was the 把. Hey, shouldn’t that be 吧 (used in imperatives to give a “how about it” sense)?
My first informant thought I’d mis-remembered and that it said 一把, which would make it a measure word and mean something like “give me a break this time“. But there’s no 一, and as the picture and my daughter (who was in the car) are witness, it really is 把.
My second informant was more dismissive: “should have been 吧 — it’s just illiterate.”
Seems unlikely to me, but what do I know. Ideas?