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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Left, right, and left again...

So, nothing like a little scare to get me to write another blog post.  While being one of the things on my uber list of things to do in 2012, I still haven’t really been that much better at it, have I?  I still blame lack of internet.  (Some of you will disagree with this, since you see me on Facebook all the time, but it’s practically the only thing that will load on my smartphone.)

So, just now, on my way to school (on a holiday, no less – I hate teaching writing classes).   I kinda caused an accident.  But not really.  Hold that thought though, because I’m gonna come back to it.
When I was little, I used to visit my grandparents in Ireland.  It was pretty awesome to say the least.  This was a long time ago though, back when there weren’t the major huge motorways that there are today.  Everything was windy, and twisty, and people still sped down the streets.  My grandpa used to scare the bejesus out of me.  When I was older, and my grandparents were in the States, I didn’t have much occasion to drive with them.  However, the last time I visited my grandpa in New Mexico before he died, he scared the bejesus out of me again.  We were stopped at a crossroads, wanting to take a left onto a busy street from a relatively small one.  Without caring that there was traffic on the busy road, my grandpa just pulled out to take that left.  Horns blared, a car swerved a little, I probably swore, and my grandpa got angry. 

Why did he get angry, when it was so obviously his fault?  Well, because he didn’t think it was.  “That other guy saw me pulling out.  He should have slowed down and let me in.”  “Um, Grandpa.  That’s not really how right of way works.  You are supposed to wait until there’s enough time for you to pull out so no one really has to slow down.”  I remember thinking how crazy my grandpa was, and how I needed to figure out a way for me to be behind the wheel for the rest of the visit.

Why do I tell you this story?  Well, because now I feel a little guilty.  Living in a lot of different places over my life, I like to think that I am open to new and different cultures.  I think I realize now, that that’s probably how my grandpa always drove, because that’s how people used to drive in Ireland.  Why to I think this now?  Well, because that’s how people drive in Indonesia.  Always.
One of the best and worst things about living in Indonesia is the traffic or basic rules of the road (or lack thereof).  To get to school each day in a car takes almost 50 minutes with the traffic.  On my motorcycle, it takes about 20.  That is a HUGE difference.  Why?  Because motorcycles don’t follow traffic lane rules.  Ever.  In fact, at the beginning of last year, when I actually tried to, the cars would get so mad at me for taking up “their” space, that I just gave up, and rode in between and around them like every other motorcyclist.  This means I rarely ever have to sit through more than one stoplight, unlike cars.  Hence, the quicker travel times. 

Another thing about Indonesian drivers of all kinds, motor and car, is that they do not look for traffic when merging.  They will pull right out into the street.  It’s your job to pay attention and get out of their way.  Just like my grandpa.  I kinda wonder how people who move to the US adapt to the differences in something as subtle as driving.  My grandpa obviously didn’t really adapt very well.  However, I never see more than 2 people riding on a motorcycle in the States, so that’s one thing that people seem to do without rather quickly. 

Motorcycles here can go anywhere too.  Sidewalks?  No problem.  Wrong way down one way streets?  Who cares, as long as you are staying towards the shoulder of the road?  Cutting across 2 lanes of traffic to make a turn?  No worries!

This is where my little problem today came into effect.  I was riding on a side street, heading to school.  Traffic here is Brit style, so I was on the left hand side of the road.  I turned on my signal, and edged towards the center of the road in preparation to make a right turn.  The guy behind me however decided I was going too slow for him, and promptly went to pass me on the right.  He realized at the last second that I was actually turning, just like my indicator said I was, slammed on his brakes, and completely wiped out. 

At first, I had no idea what happened.  I continued to pull into the driveway, and just stopped and threw my kickstand.  I wanted to know if he was OK.  He started yelling at me that it was my fault.  I look over at my bike, and my directional was still blinking.  Excuse me?  No way!  You are not blaming this on me!  I was in the correct spot to turn right.  He had gone into the oncoming lane of traffic to try and pass me.  Horray of all horrays, there were like 6 people standing around, and they ALL came to my defense, saying that he was stupid for trying to go around me on the right instead of the left, pointing to my still flashing bike, telling me it was OK, and to just get on my bike and go.  Don’t have to tell me twice.

Now, this is kinda similar to my accident, except I had a bus cut me off from the right lane of a double road, trying to make a left.  And it was raining, and he didn’t slow down, and he didn’t use his signal.  The women standing around came to my rescue that day too.  :D 

So, a nice blog post about traffic?  My motorcycle?  I don’t know…it seemed relevant at the time, and probably a good reason/excuse to put off that grading that I mentioned.  Ah, procrastination.

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