Friday, June 17, 2011

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

A typical, Grenada road*.
"Do one thing every day that scares you".  This is a nice quote.  It's simple, good advice to inspire people to get out of their daily grind.  Scared of swimming?  Sign up for swim lessons.  Scared of heights?  Head to a climbing gym.  Scared of singing?  Down few stiff drinks and hit a karaoke bar.  You get the idea.  I think breaking through boundaries is good.  Doing things that scare us teaches us things; we learn in the process that a) it wasn't so bad and b) I can do something I didn't think I could!

The other day I did something that scared me.  Granted, I didn't know it would scare me, but it scared me none the less.

The other day I rode a Grenadian bus.

First of all, let me tell you that the transportation system here is actually really good (from what I know so far).  The 'busses' run all the time, they are super cheap (less than $1.00 US for a ride), can get you just about anywhere, and they run on a high frequency.  Instead of busses as we know them, they consist of minivans that are packed to the gills with people.  Because they are run (I think) by the private sector, they are very efficient and eager to pick up as many people as they can as FAST as they can.

In order to continue this story I must confess something.  Back in the day, I was what some might consider a "crazy" driver.   I drove fast and I may or may not have been on a first name basis with a local police officer when I was in high school.  Once, in college, I was driving down an empty highway with my friend and we were going very, very fast.  I got pulled over.  The friendly officer came up to my window and asked:

Officer: Do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Me (meekly as a last ditch effort to project innocence):
He paused, jotting down a note and gave me a stern look right in the eye...
Officer: Technically, darlin', you were driving with intent to kill.


YES.  You read that correctly. "Driving with intent to kill".  That is actually a classification.  I had no idea either.  I was going something ridiculous like 60 miles over the speed limit.

Luckily, the officer liked me and took pity on me (knowing full well I was not, actually, driving "with intent to kill") and gave me a reckless driving charge instead.  My license was taken away for a while and I went to traffic school.  I learned a lesson and have since slowed down.

My point in telling you this story is to illustrate two points 1) I am not a scary cat behind the wheels and 2) the other day, our bus driver WAS driving with intent to kill*.  I have never been so terrified in a vehicle in my life.  This guy, I swear, had fire in his eyes.   The roads here, while paved, are only about a lane and a half wide and most have very deep gutters along the side.  Once you get up in the hills there are no sidewalks.  Because of this people, dogs, goats and parked cars line the side of the street making the road even narrower.  Combined with oncoming traffic and the fact that the roads here turn and wind like a formula one race track, you have one heck of a ride.  It is insane.

Every turn we took not only did we speed up, but it seemed there was always an innocent bystander walking along who it seemed certain our side mirrors would take out.  Every few seconds we were angrily jerked from one side of the bus to the other as our bat-out-of-hell driver made a turn.  There were even times I thought we were going to clip the corner of a house for crying out loud (some come right up to the road).  I'm fairly certain this guy didn't take his foot off the gas once despite descending inclines that would put San Francisco hills to shame. When most people would be riding the breaks, this guy had the pedal to the metal. I think we might have even gotten on two wheels during one hair pin turn but I cannot be sure.

You know that feeling you get in your tummy when you go down the first drop of a roller coaster?  Yeah.  We got that.  Several times. I don't know if this guy found out his wife was cheating on him or his favorite show got cancelled or what, but I felt compelled to shout "Look out!" to everyone in the street.  Scott and I sat in white knuckled silence as the world whizzed by; wincing each time we turned, gasping every time we had a near miss with a skipping school craziness.  It was the first time I have thought of my "driving with intent to kill" incident in a long time.

Obviously we survived.

But it scared the heck out of us.

I sure hope I don't meet a sociopath at the grocery store tomorrow.

* Photo courtesy of Lorrin Lee's photostream since I, obviously, could not take a picture.
**I have taken several other buses since and this, it seems, was a stand alone incident.


Anonymous said...

Driving "with intent to kill" huh? Remember the drive to waukegan? remember the drive back from the boat and I got out of the car? You could have been your drivers drivers education teacher! Love ya can't wait to see ya.

Lisa Hanneman said...

I laughed my way through this post, because I recall many times of serving as your co-pilot. Man, I love ya.

So, I have to know... What were the other people in the minivan doing while you and Scott were all white knuckled?!?! Acting like it was just a normal ride?

Albert said...

Sounds much worse than the motor scooter rickshaw in the rain in Samana!

Andrew James said...

Well, I guess you are still lucky to get off with a reckless driving violation and a traffic class. Here in our country the Philippines, it is impossible to get home safely as there are pedestrians who always do jaywalking, like on this post.

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