Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why did the chicken cross the road?

If said chicken had been in Hanoi, the age old question may have never come to be. Because there would be no chicken whose intentions we could ponder for decades. He would never have made it across that road. He wouldn't have even made it across the sidewalk. He would have died. Smoked by a kamikaze on a motorbike. Although, I guess perhaps, the dear chicken was the real kamikaze. Road kill. Smushed. Smashed. Splattered. Shushed. Feathers would have been flying everywhere- but no one would have even fingered their brakes. They did honk a warning, after all. Chicken a-la roadside- he would have been in a Vietnamese noodle soup before anyone had even noticed that the poor fella had even attempted crossing that darn road.

Crossing the street without dying ranks high on the list of something that we take for granted back home. Cars very rarely in Canada speed up when they see you, at least. There aren't many cars, but what they lack in over-sized vehicles they make up for, tenfold, in motorbikes. Motorbikes with loud, constant, infuriating honking. Asia is loud, no question, but Hanoi is in a league of it's own. Its not like in Bali when people gave a friendly honk to let you know that they were behind you. No. These scooters honk, because, like it or not, they have plans to run you down. They don't slow down, change direction, swerve or wait for you to get out of the way. They honk because they want YOU to get out of their way. It doesn't matter who was there first, which direction you are going, whether the light is red, green, purple or blue, or that the little green walkie guy is flashing, lying to you, saying that it is now your turn to cross. It is never your turn to cross, so unless you are ok with spending your entire day on one side of the street- and some people are so afraid to cross the road that they do- you need to take matters into your own hands.

Although, really, you might as well just cross the road, because you're not even safe on the sidewalk. If for some reason the sidewalk happens to be free of parked motorbikes, tables and chairs of makeshift restaurants, people washing their clothes and inconveniently placed trees - then really all that means is that it is another place to drive. They shouldn't even be able to call it a sidewalk. Maybe if they took the word 'walk' out, as that implies that such an activity is possible- which it's not. 'Sideroad' would be more accurate. Because, why waste your time swerving through the myriad of motorbikes on the actual 'road' when its totally a-ok to forcefully and loudly part the sea of pedestrians huddling (or, in the tourists case, quivering) on the conveniently accessible 'side-road.'

So, after many near-fatal attempts- here is the secret: just go. First- look in all four directions- don't make the silly mistake of thinking that vehicles could only possibly come from your right or left. You're only looking for a clear space for your first step. Make sure you are mentally prepared though, for that first step- because once you make the decision, there's no turning back- there's already a motorbike behind you. Keep your head up, look straight forward and step again. Don't speed up- the motorbike crossing in front of you won't expect it- and you will get hit. Don't slow down- the bikes coming from down the street will get confused- and you will get hit. DO NOT, whatever you do, stop. No one will know what to do- and they will all hit you. Just walk. It's your safest bet- you will almost never get hit. When all else fails, cuddle up with a group of locals (personal space is a non-issue here-get as close as you can -link arms even- they will probably love it and take your photo - it's a bonding experience- there's safety in numbers-united we stand...) Anyways, couples with young babies are a good bet, as are the elderly, as I'm sure they almost almost never get hit. Just a suggestion.

Having had some spare time- we have done some experimenting with the art of street crossing. Eye contact, for example. Does direct eye contact make your fast approaching assailant recognize you as a fellow human being and mercifully take more effort to avoid you? Or does the eye contact simply allow them to lock onto their target like a homing missile? Will they speed up? Is it a safe idea to distract people by looking at them while they are (hopefully) concentrating on avoiding smashing you into smithereens? Experiment result: Inconclusive- everyone was going too fast to be certain that we ever established eye contact.

The good news: No one was (badly) harmed in the creation of this entry.

Conclusion: Vietnam = one big horn-y country!


Pappy said...

Hi J&K,
I am glad I'm not a chicken otherwise I would not be writing this Email.I would actually be in the soup ! I thought Africa was bad, because if you weren't quick, you were dead. Your Email proves that you are still in the land of the living, desite having crossed the road in Vietnam .I must pray harder for your safety!
The nice thing is, you seem to enjoy it. I hope your visit to China proves to be better.
Best wishes and love to you both

Anonymous said...

Hi J@K
just talked to your dad and he told me how to email you. love the blogs and the photos.thankyou so much for the kindof you to think of us. brent had his foot surgery and is off for 4months. i'm chief cook bottle washer and chauffeur.take care of yourselves. pray for you often. love hazel and brent

Parentals said...

I would have had a panic attack for sure in the crowds and traffic.
Maybe you should have tried some white flags as I believe they are a universal symbol of peace. LOL

Anonymous said...

I am living vicariously through your blog and loving it. Thank you so much for the postcard - it made my day! Leone