Monday, May 30, 2005

Cool as a Cucumber meets Traffic Tales

Today was the day to bite the bullet (try explaining that expression to your Japanese friend) and shell out the dough for the air conditioner. But I did better than I had originally expected. Today I bought not one, but three air conditioners AND a clothes dryer for $750 (you will not believe how tiny this dryer is). Not too bad considering that I thought I'd spend that on just one air con. So Thursday, before the intense heat of summer arrives, I'll have one in the bedroom, one in the living room, and one in the office, so I can a cool chick no matter where I am. Yeah, so the kitchen will probably not get too cool, but like I'm ever in there cooking anyway....

As I walked to Carrefour today to make my big purchase, I must have had at least 8-10 brushes with death. You see, there's no sidewalk, and the road is the only road that goes from Taipei to Danshui, so there is always a lot of traffic. Oh yes, there's a little lane that's titled "pedestrian road" but that doesn't stop the maniacs on scooters from using it. And they not only zip by within inches going the right direction, they sneak up behind you going the wrong way! I swear, there are simply no traffic laws here at all, none. The scooters drive on the sidewalks, and they don't care if you're there first. The scooters pass cars and buses on the right, and they don't care that you're walking in the road.

The City of Chico Code Enforcement division would be having hissy fits here. Public right-of-way? hahahaha! Right.... Try walking down the sidewalk - you'll find it blocked by parked scooters, businesses that have spilled their merchandise out onto the sidewalk, businesses that have BUILT the shops right over the sidewalk, causing one to have no choice but to walk into the road. During the rush hours, there are so many people coming and going (and stopping dead right in front of me to make a purchase from a street vendor) that I'm always far into the road to get by them (I really can't believe that human beings can actually walk as slowly as most of the people do here, it's amazing). Doesn't matter if I walk facing the traffic, because the cars coming from behind are passing other cars and coming into the left lane where I'm walking. And my friends are so nonchalant about it. "Oh well, if they hit you, they'll have to pay you money." "Yes, but I can't spend it if I'm dead." I can't wait until I can actually read the Chinese newspaper (the Taipei Times is "designed" for foreigners and never has the juicy, gory stuff) to see how many die every day from being clipped by an old lady on a scooter who is carrying about 50 pounds of groceries in addition to her Siberian Husky (no lie, I've seen this). Or the guy who is delivering six large (20 kilo) bottles of propane and just can't wait for the Auntie to get across the street but has to veer onto the sidewalk to go around her. Or the mother who has her three children on the scooter, all of them carrying bags with their dinner from the vendors, only the bigger kids wearing helmets while the youngest does without.

But hey, you know what? Taking my chances walking the streets of Taiwan is preferable to driving anywhere in the US ;)

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