Wednesday, September 15, 2010
On the Road
Adapting to driving on the left, in an environment where most streets are not striped, or named, is difficult. The activity is compounded by the occasional disrepair of the roads. Large, rain-created potholes often develop overnight to provide a concave counterpoint to the abundant, unmarked speed bumps. Further complicating the matter is a lack of sidewalks in residential areas, and the previously-discussed wandering livestock.
The extreme grade and frequent hairpin turns of the mountain roads create another obstacle. Add narrow roads and haphazard roadside parking to all of the conditions above, and you begin to get a sense of the intricacies of driving in the British Virgin Islands.
The vehicle HB's employers have provided him, a Hyundai sedan, performs adequately, given the challenges it has to face on a daily basis. After five years in service on the island, the suspension is on its last legs, and the front end has begun to make suspicious noises. Still, the car makes it up the mountain every day, although it resists on days when the pavement is wet.
The radio in the car is usually tuned to 104.9, The Mongoose, a classic rock station, and inevitably, as I turn out of the driveway and head down the mountain, the station plays something fast-paced and intense, guaranteed to get my heart pounding. CCR's "Run Through the Jungle" more often than not, though occasionally The Who's "Pinball Wizard" or GNR's "Paradise City" introduces some variety. When the song ends, and I'm nearly to the bottom of the hill, the announcer enthusiastically intones the station's slogan: "The 'Goose Is On The Loose!", an apt description of my too-fast descent.
I often feel, circling the block for the sixth time, looking for the library, like I'm stuck in a real-life game of Mario-Kart, close to the final lap, as other drivers work to out-gun me, and I try to avoid the lava pits (potholes), red shells (pedestrians) and green shells (roadcows), and just cross the finish line (arrive at my destination). Driving up the mountain only increases this feeling, and I imagine I'm on the Ghost World level, dodging all the same hazards, while also attempting not to fall off the edge. When I pull into the parking lot and turn off the car, I always exhale robustly, happy to have survived another race.