Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Using your horn doesn’t make you a safe driver…

Road rage is a killer.  Especially when you’re trapped in a tin can, flying down the roads of Haiti at upwards of 80 miles an hour, and YOUR rage is directed at YOUR driver. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to O Kay.  The drive to O Kay is gorgeous.  We wove through the mountains, drove through a multitude of small towns and villages, and hugged the coastline during our almost-pleasant 5 hour drive from Port-Au-Prince.

There was a pleasant bit of conversation between me, the head nun of Haiti, 2 of the girls, the driver, and his wife. 
I added this pic because it was Gorgeous.  The lake of O'Kay
Even this drive was tainted with a sprinkling of the road rage to come. 

The first sign came at the downed bridge (which was perfectly serviceable just covered with a mound of dirt???).  We took a 1 lane bypass around the bridge and THROUGH the river.  Many of the more polite cars pulled off the road to connect their 4x4.  If you haven’t ever seen this, older 4x4 have a locking mechanism on the front two wheels which must be manually engaged.

Butt Face (our driver) did not bother to pull off the road.  Instead he decided to sit in the middle of the road, while cars in front and back are honking, and change the locking mechanism, on BOTH sides of the river.  It would have been a minor inconvenience to us to let the 4 cars behind us pass, but I guess shrugging is easier…

Second Sign, I even kicked a pile of horse crap with my flip flops.  Luckily, there was a leech infested pond right next to the poop for me to wash off my foot.  Yeah that sucked. But at least I wasn’t in the car with the chauffer.

On our drive we passed many of the most beautiful locations I’ve seen in Haiti.  The ocean, a river flowing into a damn with irrigation trenches, beautiful mountains, the descent into O Kay from the mountains. 

After our drive and sightseeing Sr. Mary Clair stayed in O Kay and we made our way home.

After she left, the chauffer made the most dazzling show of ego, self importance, and disrespect I’ve ever seen.  For example; instead of throwing his waste sugar cane out the window he would put it at my feet.  This could have been a cultural difference and so I wasn’t angry… yet.

Lucky for me the anger would come, as the ride home that drove every nail into the figurative coffin.   I’m just glad it wasn’t mine. 

He sped. I checked and we were going 80 miles an hour at one point.  These are not highways; they would be the equivalent of American back roads. Pedestrians walk on the road, because there is no side walk. 

We even encountered a funeral procession.  The gentlemen in the procession had to stand in front of the car so that the driver wouldn’t PUSH THROUGH THE CROWD. Even with that he tried a few times.

We stopped here to get ocean water.  Again Gorgeous!
An argument between him and his wife ended with us stopping so they could collect salt water.  Awkward turtle!

To make up for “lost time” he would pass cars while blazing down the road.  We’d pass car without caution and twice we had to fit 3 cars on the crowded road.  

Then the sun set.

Haitians misuse their brights and it really chaps my hide! They turn them ON as they pass other cars, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this causes night blindness.  But this isn’t what really scares me.  In Haiti there are many cars that don’t have lights…  I counted 3 in the course of 1 hour.  Imagine passing at 80 miles an hour then seeing a car without lights drive by 5 or 6 seconds later.

At one point he scared a kid crossing the street because OUR lights weren’t on.  Our horn was the only warning the kid got of our approach, which made the kid jump out of his skin. 

After that, he almost hit 1 pig, 2 dogs, 30 people and at least 4 other cars.  OK so I didn’t count how many people he almost hit but it was a lot!  One person was hit with the mirror.  We weren’t going very fast but obviously he wasn’t driving very well either.

If I’d had money I would have gotten out and taken a taptap (taxi).  If I’d had my license I’d have asked to drive myself.  If I make it back to America I’m going to kiss the first police officer who pulls me over. 

When driving with a mad-man bring: cash, your wallet, and pepper spray.

Lesson Learned.

This is the man to look out for.  Just get out and walk!

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