This week a woman was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver not far from where I live. How drunk was the driver? Staggering? Hardly able to hold the steering wheel? In the article it just said "over the limit." And that, in Mallorcan terms, might as well mean "normal". Everybody drinks and drives here.
I never knowingly get in a car with someone who's been drinking. This is really annoying to drunk drivers. "It's okay, I'm a good driver," they say, almost menacingly. Yes, well, I'm not a good passenger. I could tell them it's because as a child I was hit by a drunk, nay, shitfaced, driver in the middle of a pedestrian crossing on my way to my ballet lesson that was supposed to be followed by a concert with the Trondhjem Philharmonic Orchestra with my favourite violin player Arve Tellefsen and I flew through the air and landed headfirst on the tram tracks and thought "now I can't go to the concert" and that was true and a bystander drove me home and my parents didn't take me to the hospital because it was the 1970s when children were supposed to be able to fall off a bike or out of a tree or be run down by a drunk fucker without needing medical attention. Yes, that's what I could say, but they (my wine guzzling friends) would probably think it was a stupid lie to get out of a situation, so I never do. Anyway it wouldn't be because of that. I don't need an excuse not to get in a car with a drunk driver.
However, I also love road trips.
When I lived in Hong Kong/China I used to take my Cantonese students on "language seminars" in Guangdong province just across the border from Hong Kong. It was one such student/friend, L, who suggested we start hitchhiking around China instead of getting on dirty and crowded buses. How fun! The Chinese, being hospitable to a T and especially to (white) foreigners, simply had no choice but to stop. We learnt always to say we were just going to the nearest town instead of where we were actually going, because drivers would then inevitably drive us there and then turn around and go back .
The nearest town was not an option, however, when we were hitchhiking through Xinjiang, formerly known as East Turkestan. It is a province larger than Europe, way out in Central Asia where all the neighbouring countries is a Stan. There were hardly any cars and certainly no towns, so we had to tell the few drivers who picked us up, exactly where we were going. And where we were going was Korla, hundreds of kilometres away and on the northern edge of the dreaded Taklamakan Desert, whose name is supposed to mean "If you go in, you can't come out."
After a couple of short/distance truck lifts, we were picked up by two Uyghurs in a car that looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since it fell off the conveyor belt in 1968. The front window was encrusted with yellow sand and completely opaque. Cool! Their Mandarin was almost unintelligible, but we understood they were going to a transport hub 200 kilometres down the road. I also made out that the driver said "First, drink beer."
They took us to a small village and into a shack made of plywood. Inside were three other Uyghurs - one of whom was the spitting image of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and a Chinese guy. All four were already shitfaced, which I found strangely reassuring as I never liked Ahmadinejad much. In fact I think one of the problems with the Middle East 'conflicts' is that so many of the actors don't have access to the pacifying balsam of beer.
An intricate ceremony involving 15 large bottles of beer and two thimble-sized glasses followed. The honoured guests L and I were give the lion's share, or rather the lion cub's share - the real lion's share went to the driver. He must have put away eight or nine bottle in the hour we were there. Thus fortified, we staggered back to the car where I got the best seat, next to the driver who navigated by looking out the side window. We took off at top speed, the driver clinging to the steering wheel for balance, while the car veered from side to side.
There was desert on both sides, the road was razor straight and there were no other cars. But still, I was afraid! No beer could dull this dread I felt. Of course both the driver and the other Uyghur thought it was hilarious to see me hang on to the side door (no seatbelt, naturally) and idiotically close my eyes - what for? It was impossible to see anything through the windshield anyway! But the 200 kilometres flew by, I'll give them that.
That's the last time I've been in a drink driving car, that I know of. But of course, in China beer isn't seen as alcohol.
After my life in China, Mallorca seems decidedly dull normal. But crashing in a car with a driver over the limit is one excitement I definitely don't need.
One excitement you need, on the other hand, is that of being able to speak Cantonese, the most fun and happening language in all of China and the world.
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
Today's Cantonese: 貓咗 Mau jou - catted. (Shitfaced)