Monday, June 15, 2009

Death Wish

I got in a cab this afternoon to go to Taoyuan station to meet my language exchange buds.

About halfway through the ride - in rush hour - one of Taiwan's many, many oblivious motorcyclists cut in front of the taxi. I slammed my hand against the roof and almost crashed into the front seat. Taiwan has a terrible shortage of backseat belts, this cab was no exception.

As I climbed out of the car at the station, I looked up and saw my language partner's wife smiling down at me. She was leaned up against her scooter with an extra helmet in hand.

Out of the pot, into the fire were the first words that came to mind.

People in Taiwan don't drive differently. They drive badly. When faced with the prospect of being hurled over the handlebars of a pink, low-powered contraption of unknown origins - what you really want is a nice beefy driver. Someone in the 250-pound range who can take the blow for you. My friend? I could throw her over my shoulder and take a couple laps around the track without breaking a sweat.

Paula is little, but she's a fine driver (which is more than I can say for my boss). Most of the drive was down side streets and alleys. We made a stop at her mom's house to pick up a bottle of soy sauce. Sure, she got uncomfortably close to a bus a time or two, but hey, this is Taiwan.

Most importantly I was able to keep up a fairly steady stream of Chinese conversation the whole ride. And try to tell me that's not impressive: Staring death in the face over the top of your friend's yellow pikachu-themed helmet, wondering whether your own chinstrap is sufficiently tight, and concentrating on the upcoming hard right - all while discussing her trip to New York in Chinese.

Stupid ... or awesome? Awesome.

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