The smallest roads on Scotland's Isle of Skye are less than a lane wide as they squeeze between ancient jumbled stone bridge abutments. The largest roads are are two-lane blacktop ribbons which roll along the island's sinuous coastline. I drove on both last week during a refreshingly uncomplicated trip to Scotland with my fiance Jackie. And we kept telling each other every time we got behind the wheel, "Remember to drive on the left."
A tour guide told us that the Brits drive on the left because it allowed right-handed horseman to swing their swords at the oncoming traffic. The left-handed Napoleon, the legend continues, ordered his armies to march on the right side of the road so that his own sword could be at ready. Colonization and war spread those two customs around the world. Australia and Malta drive on the left, while Canada and Madagascar prefer the right.
Perhaps that's just another anti-French story from the British isles, but it's fun to think that the centuries-old decisions of army commanders and fortunes of war determine the frustration levels of modern-day tourists like us. I am sure there is a great deal else that we take as standard today that can be traced back to a simple memo by some unnamed bureaucrat. April 15th as tax day, for instance, or Tuesday being election day. Routines fit the world as well as they fit individuals.