Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Driving Me Crazy. Crazy Me Driving...

A bomb went off in a suburb on the outskirts of Colombo last night. So the police in their wisdom, (much like the stable door of bolting horses fame), decided to do 100% checking this morning. So Colombo once more ground to a halt.

It took me 1 hr 20 mins to get to a friend's house, a journey that, even at midday with schools traffic, normally takes me 15 mins. Every rd into town has a police check point (nothing unusual there for Colombo) but on these particular 100% days, they check everyone. Really everyone. It does rather slow things down.

The other problem was my fuel guage was on empty. So we had the a/c on the lowest setting, and somehow we made it to this friend's house (for what was to be my 1st ever baby shower) adding to the stress of sitting in Colombo traffic for nearly 1 1/2 hrs with an empty petrol tank. There was no petrol station between our suburb and my friend's house, despite being two of the main rds.

There was a reason I had no petrol. I had driven into a petrol station to fill up on the way, and in the process nearly killed a man. Then I nearly got killed in a lynching because of having nearly killed this man.....

I had driven in, spotted a pump with only one tuktuk at it, so went into reverse to get the tank on the right side. Suddenly there was loads of yelling and shouting at me, so I stopped immediately. Don't know how I hadn't seen it on the way in, but whilst reversing I wasn't able to see that there was a manhole cover open, WITH a man in it, creating an open hole right in the middle of the petrol forecourt, with no tape, no warning. Sweet diddly. This is normal here (and why in the recent floods people disappeared down open manholes hidden under flood waters) but I need to mention this fact in my defence. I had not spotted it and was busy reversing over him. He was chest deep in the hole, so not seeable thru the back windscreen or wing mirror.

Anyway SUDDENLY from nowhere, there were about 15 men all round the car and round the man. They were glaring at me, head shaking, shouting. I got out apologised again and again, said could I do anything, but they just carried on glaring and shouting and pointing at the man's shoulder, upper back and arm which had dust marks on. I didn't know what to do, or what I was expected to do, to appease the mob. I hasten to add he was fine physically, though no doubt as shaken by the experience as I was, at my having nearly maimed him.

Anyway eventually a man came up who was probably the manager of the petrol station and said it's fine, don't worry etc etc. I was quite shaken both by having nearly run someone over and also by this baying mob, and I just drove out without petrol..... And again why suddenly were 15 people this guy's best mate, fighting his battles for him I don't know. It was almost as if they really believed I was deliberately trying to bump this man off. Or maybe they just wanted a bit of drama and some blood shed (mine) to liven their day.

I can't get over (like the guy who stepped out in front of me on Hill St a few months ago), how people here do utterly mad things and then turn on you when they get 'hurt' or something happens as if it's your fault. On that occasion I was turning right at a green light. He popped out from the queue of cars at a red light in the next lane. He didnt even look once in the direction of the oncoming traffic. He just stepped out. I got similar abuse then for driving through a green light.

I know bus drivers are literally lynched by passengers if they cause an accident, even though no one on the bus seems to complain about their very dangerous driving. Buses are the worst culprits of anyone in Sri Lanka. They are absolutely terrifying at times.

Last week, on my way to meet my husband I had to swerve THREE times OFF the rd because a van, a small lorry and then a car all decided to overtake up a hill on the main street in my suburb and just drove straight towards me. But that's normal. Here.

My husband has got out of a tuktuk and refused to pay or continue because the tuktuk was driving the wrong way up a (busy) one way street. Knowingly.

Well I'm safely back home now. And I'm staying put....

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