Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Driving on airport runways

Calmer now. Back to my usual “this is life, get over it” typical self. Took lunch to do shopping therapy. Office supplies. I tooled around Office Depot, inhaling the fragrance of ink, and bought some funky Disney stationary featuring Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Figured I’d send out all personal correspondance on that from now on.

It will go well with the crayons they'll give me once I finally do land in the looney bin.

Driving back to the office, I’m singing along with Billy Joel’s “You may be right, I may be crazy.” And I flash back to last week’s driving about Haiti. C is a damn good driver. But driving in Haiti is pure lunacy. I’m so used to it, I don’t flinch anymore when she does a uee in the middle of oncoming traffic and a truck nearly clips us. The Newbie not only flinched, I heard him mutter, "Holy &#*@&#@."

He’ll get used to it.

There are traffic lights in Haiti, but many don’t work. In fact, people are so used to them NOT working when the lights do work they don’t pay attention and they go forward on red, green, and yellow lights.

Then we encountered a truck blocking the road, which was really an eroded dirt path (in the capital, a short cut). C is getting impatient. So she drives on the sidewalk, missing the truck by a hair’s breadth. We clap wildly, applauding her excellent driving skills.

If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk.

Of course, driving in Haiti is more hazardous if you don’t have a 4x4 because the roads are so eroded your front end gets clipped and ends up sagging more than Grandma’s bosom. I personally prefer the Montero, which has a more comfy ride and better shocks and lessens the impact of feeling like you are driving down stairs. In Cap last week we drove around in the priest’s Toyota pick up. B had climbed into the bed, soaking wet after being in the mucky water photographing the kids fishing.

The good father forgot and started to take off while B was still climbing into the truck. And the roads… huge ruts, potholes that he drove into instead of skirting. We were springing up and down like malfunctioning Jack In the Boxes, nearly hitting the ceiling.

The Newbie, who had downed a big breakfast, is looking a little greenish as we’re bouncing around. It is St. Patrick’s Day, and the color is kinda cool. I mention casually, “Oh, did I tell you this is why I rarely eat breakfast out in the field?”

Then we drove on the runway. I mean, we drove on the &#*@&# runway of the airport in Cap.

It wasn’t the actual runway, but the paved “emergency landing” strip right before it. But it sure as hell LOOKED like the runway. I just sat there, laughing so hard my stomach hurt. I’ve never driven on a runway before.

But maybe the best description of driving in Haiti is what I found on a website. Unbelievably, a tourist website.

“We're sad to say that 65% of the vehicles one encounters at night have either no working headlights or only one working headlight. 75% have neither working tail lights nor brake lights. This includes heavy trucks that tend to use the middle of the road, even when totally unlit and driving around a blind curve. Drivers tend to be reckless and the vehicles unroadworthy. These are mild statements.”

No &#@*#&@…

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