Saturday, June 23, 2012

Oh Canada, Your Traffic Infrastructure is So Sexy!

Millions of years ago (give or take), a small round revolutionary creation emerged from the depths of human imagination.  It was an idea that enhanced efficiency and capability, and is arguably the second greatest invention of all time after facebook.  That invention is, of course, the wheel, and I am deathly afraid of it.

You know that old urban legend about the girl who never learned how to ride a bike even though she was over the age of seven?  Well, myth busted because that girl is me.  I also tried driving but hated it because I was constantly paranoid that I would crash and die or be the accidental perpetrator of somebody else's death.  In the words of Tweak: "TOO MUCH PRESSURE!!!"

I pretty much view every single thing with wheels as a death machine, be it a train, or a car, or those stupid little wheel things kids put on their sneakers.  I am convinced they will somehow roll to their bloody death, possibly by rolling into oncoming traffic where they will be slaughtered by something bigger with wheels, or maybe they will roll down the stairs and shatter their skulls.  Or, alternatively, they will just bump into me and I will have to kill them out of sheer annoyance.  Regardless, my eternal pessimism refuses to see these sneaker wheels as a fun toy, but instead as the driving force behind the apocalypse. 


This is how I felt even before I travelled to India.  And now, after riding on the back of motorbikes clinging for dear life as cars, bikes, rickshaws and a variety of barnyard animals come at me from every direction without any logic or order, I am absolutely certain that wheels were created by a sadistic fuck who preyed on chaos and human misery.

A Portrait of India
What appears to a Canadian as a two lane road, in India is actually more like a 20-25 lane road.  There is no such thing as the "three second rule", or "safe distance".  The way it works is if there is even a tiny amount of space on the road you are required to fill it somehow, even if it doesn't make any sense to.  If the oncoming car is at least 3 meters away, the general passing rule is "I can make it!"


In India the horn is a solution to everything, which is hilarious because there are signs everywhere saying "Do not honk your horn".  Maybe honking is supposed to serve as some kind of crash prevention method, but my theory is that it's actually to drown out the blood-curdling screams of tourists yelling "HOLY SHIT TELL MY MOTHER I LOVE HER!!!!!!!!!!"

As a pedestrian you have to be aggressive if you want to get anywhere.  This sucks for me because when I look and see a zillion cars and a bunch of cows coming at me I become paralyzed with fear and my brain rejects all crossing "opportunities", even if they do actually exist kind of.  Example: I spent 20 minutes trying to cross the street to get to the Red Fort in Delhi.  Then I gave up, went crazy, and decided I hate India. So I took a break at McDonalds with a bunch of Chicken McNuggets and then decided to try again because I really wanted to take pretty pictures.  I ended up making it, but my pictures turned out bad and I am still angry about the whole thing.

Yup, I risked my life for this photo!

In a couple of weeks I will be out of Asia and back on the orderly roads of my home and native land.  I have loved many things and will miss many things about India, but the traffic is not among them.  I look forward to Canada, where there will be traffic lights and driving laws and it will be glorious.  In fact, I may end up getting all cocky and strut confidently into oncoming traffic Marla Singer style dramatically yelling "Who are you anyway? Cornelius? Rupert?..."  JUST BECAUSE I CAN! (And also because I'm a sucker for misguided violent movie references)

Moral of the story: Dear Canada, I love you for your traffic infrastructure.  I promise to never take you for granted, or cheat on you by loving another traffic infrastructure more.  You are the only traffic infrastructure for me.  I kind of wish you'd lose the snow and the hockey and the conservative government, but hey, can't have it all right?  Anyway, I wrote you this song which I would proudly hold my hand over my heart and sing any day:

Oh Canada, your road signs are so clear
And 'cuz of that I walk with much less fear
When the light is red people stop their cars
So that they don't hit me
Stuff like that is cool for pedestrians
Who want not squished to be
God keep our lanes
Marked, well-lit and free
Oh Canada your passing laws are sweet
Oh Canada your pavement's so sexy

(I think that was probably some sort of treason or something)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travelling Light

My flight to Singapore was scheduled to depart at 6:20am, which meant check-in was theoretically to begin around 3:20am.  After spending the night at the Bali airport Starbucks (which was actually closed but they had an outdoor seating area popular with local mosquitoes), it was finally time to go check in.  However, check in was delayed for a while and didn't end up beginning until closer to 4:30am.

When I finally got my boarding pass I noticed something interesting.  There was no checked baggage allowance.  "Impossible!" I thought.  I always remember to book checked baggage, surely it had to be a mistake. I am never wrong!  So I asked at the desk and they assured me that there was, in fact, no checked baggage for me :*(


I was down to my final rupiahs and I absolutely refused to pay extra for checked baggage. The only solution was to improvise and try to stuff every single thing I owned into a tiny carry on suitcase that I was not able to expand due to size restrictions.  I knew it was not going to be easy.  So, with less than an hour left until scheduled boarding time I dumped everything I had onto the floor and began making some fast and terrifying decisions about the fate of my stuff.

After a brief panic attack I started sorting everything into piles with imaginary labels marked "i will most definitely die without this", "i will possibly die without this, best not chance it", "i probably won't die without it, but to lose it may reduce my will to live", and finally "why do i still have this crap?"

Everything in pile #4 was immediately discarded.
Everything in pile #1 was test packed to see how much more space I had for the items in piles #2 & #3.  Then it was unpacked and thrown on the floor again.
Piles #2 & #3 were re-sorted hierarchically, and those ranking lowest were set aside for probable death.  The higher ranked stuff was sorted into new categories including "what I can squeeze into my suitcase", "what I can layer on my body", and finally "do I actually need it, really?"

It was not a comfortable journey, nor was it a fashionable one, but I managed to successfully meet the size and weight requirements for carry-on luggage and here's how I did it:

What I wore:

-1 pair of socks
-2 pairs of leggings
-1 pair of loose cotton capris
-1 tank top
-2 babydoll dresses
-1 cashmere cardigan
-1 wool hooded sweater
-1 fleece jacket

My attire was very well suited for my destination of Singapore (aka 1 degree north of the Equator)

Things I managed to keep with a lot of stuffing effort:

-1 Stuffed beagle pillow
-Bunch of notebooks with random "really important and top secret" stuff written (I have a stationary addiction, it's unhealthy)
-2 amazing Balinese presents for Megra & Katerpiller which I will neither confirm nor deny are wooden penis beer bottle openers
-1 Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack that is so amazing I'm convinced it will outlive us all (and not just cuz the world's going to end in a few months)

What I had to sacrifice:

-1 really comfy Bohemian kinda dress that had at least 2 more wears before total disintegration
-1 one-size-fits-all dress that didn't fit
-1 pair of leggings with 2 holes in them
-2 empty notebooks symbolizing my lack of productivity
-8 billion pairs of black tights (I have no idea how I ended up with so many???)
-1 stick of deodorant (to be replaced ASAP)
-Several mismatched socks (they will meet with their long lost mates in the Travellers Trax Sock Vortex, I have faith!)
-1 brush (admittedly I was a little attached because it was one of the trillion brushes Courtney and I bought because we kept losing them in the room 6 abyss, so we just started leaving them randomly around the room so ideally we could always find at least one of them.  This may have been the last remaining one :*( 

Moral of the story:  Always print page 2 of your travel documents as well as page 1.  I checked my flight details when I got some internet and it turned out I did actually pre-book my luggage and all of that was for nothing.  Now please excuse me, I have to go buy deodorant.