Stick-y Situations

October 15, 2011

When I was fifteen, my dad took me out into the hills of Escondido in a little blue Honda Civic. We had a handwritten cardboard sign trailing out the trunk like one of those “Just Married” announcements, except this one said, “Student Driver” in uglified scrawl. I generally busied myself with dinosaurs and books as a child and certainly never played video games, so I knew neither the mechanics nor basics of driving. And not only was I just learning how to drive a car, I had to do so with a manual transmission to boot.

Needless to say, it was a painful learning curve. While I eventually mastered the art of driving stick, it was never something that really grew on me. I was very grateful having a means of transportation, but I couldn’t help dreaming of the day when I would buy my own automatic.

Then I moved to Paraguay, and quickly realized that taking public transportation was an otherworldly experience and not a good one at that. Fortunately, living with the Br’s affords me the luxury of being chauffeured by car to most of my necessary destinations. And now, even more fortunately, I can drive myself! I never anticipated driving in Latin America, but thanks to my mastery of manual transmission (and my new-found appreciation for it), I am officially able to venture out on my own should a vehicle be available.

On Thursday, I headed out to English classes at church–me and the Rav4, our first time flying solo. Not two minutes from the apartment was a makeshift check-point with police waving drivers over. I panicked a little wondering what I’d do if they pulled me over. At that point, I didn’t yet have an official permiso to drive the Br’s car and I certainly didn’t have any money in case a bribe was in order (not that I condone this, but a back-up plan was necessary…and also non-existent anyway). I thought feigning ignorance would be the best method. I did my best to avoid any sort of eye contact and trudged along.

Just as I was giving a sidelong glance at the officers to make sure I wasn’t blatantly disobeying any orders, I had to mash on the brakes. The car in front of me had come to a screeching halt as a result of the front left tire literally FLYING OFF and skittering across two lanes of oncoming traffic. Then the entire car collapsed. A few police officers blase-dly strolled over, looking bored and more annoyed than concerned. The five seconds I took to process my shock at the recent unfolding of events was enough to stoke the fury of the cars behind me for not moving along immediately.

Honkhonkhonkhonkhonk. So much for it being rude to do that here. Unsure of how to proceed, I cautiously edged my way around the situation and when nobody stopped me, I just continued on my merry way and arrived at church ten minutes later as if nothing strange had transpired at all.

On second thought, I’m not quite sure driving is going to be any more secure than taking a bus…

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