Monday, August 13, 2007

El Caballo Negro*

“ I went for my riding test today, I really must blog about it!”
“Why, what happened?!”
“Nothing. It was all very efficient.”
“You’re right; you definitely should blog about it!”

Well, dear Readers, at last, at the ripe old age of , well, a few years away from forty anyway, yours truly went for her driving test. Or to be precise a riding test, since I am actually aiming modestly low for the class D license so that I can legally operate my hot Caballo Negro, on the wonderful action packed streets of Colombo, and a little further out too, if possible…
So, I’ve changed my spectacles, dyed my hair, registered the bike, taken it out on practice runs, and last but not least filled my organ donar card and kept it in a easily accessible place in my wallet so that if Im found brain dead they can salvage the rest, and here I am ready to hit the streets , well hopefully not literally but , you get the picture…

Why unprotected?
The written test itself was rather an eye-opener. I have never actually seen half the signs in the Highway Code book on any of the streets I have traveled through. I believe studying seriously for this written test has given me a true appreciation of road signs. Im sure that I will sit up and point and take pictures if I see an obscure road sign somewhere in Habarana or wherever. The dubious fact that you never see orange and green together on a traffic light was impressed upon me. Nice drivers, believe it or not , are not supposed to park on the pedestrian crossing (maybe I should carry my Highway Code around everyday and read sections of it out to them politely?) and there were odd multiple choice questions like :
At night due to low visibility you should
a) Have really bright headlights
b) drive very fast , since there is not much traffic
c) drive carefully since visibility is low.

With such challenging choices one can imagine why there are quite a few failures in Colombo and also wonder how any one actually passes, considering what they actually practice...
...The exact sign for Unprotected Level Crossing is burned into my minds eye along with my tiny scribbled footnote on why such things are allowed in the first place, since they look like very dangerous situations. I wonder - does it take a messy, gory death or two for our Local Government to find the money for a small piece of wood with a stone at the end of it ? I know a lot of banks and government departments and even department stores have those little barriers, why can’t we afford them?

Wither the fairer sex?
And this is what I noticed most about the people at the Driving Test joint. There were, if I calculated correctly at least from a hundred to hundred and twenty people that morning and out of them I’d estimate 80 % were youth between the ages of 18 and 25, another 10%-15% were more mature looking guys of around upto 35 years of age as a maximum and as for the 8 or 9 females apart from myself, they could have been anywhere from 20- 40 years old, and they were comparatively well dressed and looked like they were from genteel middle income families. So what happens to the poor lower income females, like my Kusumawathi ? Is it some plot to make sure that they are always immobile, always dependant on their generally drink sozzled men-folk? Why have the Colombo guys made sure that poor women in Colombo cant at least ride a bike or a bicycle to get their work done, but must continue at the mercy of the tyrannical weirdos on buses, or in tuktuks? Or is it the women themselves, shutting themselves in with an established attitude that somehow it’s Just Not Done to get yourself a license unless you can afford a car? What am I missing here, by being so thick skinned?

And , how long will I be here?
I confess to being a total and utter scaredy-cat at heart. Coming from a very sheltered background but being compelled by a fierce lust for independence to defiantly shake lose the caring shackles of my long suffering loved ones, I find myself nevertheless praying hard when I’m on the bike, discretely trying to ride as close to the drains as possible at a maximum speed of 25 kmph, praying that some large drunk bus wont make a meal of me as it races along on its deadly business. If my life were actually in my own hands it would be bearable, its not- its at the mercy of some hairy, godless, drunk semi literate third-world public transport driver out there who just may be having a Homicidal Negligence Day. Or perhaps I will be ridden over by one of the racing non governmental intellectuals in off roaders who criss cross Colombo with important agendas and are not only sloshed but have been breaking rest too, at the local Karaoke bars till 3 am…. Who knows? I just pray that it will be quick. Ce sara sara, or whatever. My nights, then are punctuated with disturbing visions, not exactly dreams and yet, not nightmares either ,of being gently put to sleep – merciful release in a sense, but of course there is that element of the unknown which appeals to the encaged adventurer in me: where would I go from here? And yet, my friends, you know why I do this?
I guess it’s because I can.

/aka the Drain Rider chronicles
And that means, the Black Stallion in Spanish, which is what I have been trying to learn for the last 3 years, and haven’t really had the time for. Its on my to do list.


Janus said...

About the practical test, do they have scooters for ladies who only want to ride scooters and not bikes with gears and clutches?

Angel said...

Good luck on the bike... hope the combined willpower of loved ones and well wishers will keep the nasty drunk bus driver-boyos well away.

If you have time, try the Rossetta Stone learning course in espanol. A pirated copy can easily be picked up at MC.

al juhara said...

they have challys which have gears but no clutches. odd confusing little things which are neither here nor there.

Tanya Jansz said...

Brilliant post! I remember my written test. Was foxed on the pedestrian crossing and traffic lights questions. They're somehow things that you do subconciously and not really what you learn.
As for the low number of ladies applying, it may be both 'cos they're dettered by the men or beucase they themselves never considered it yeah?

Janus said...

The ladies who do the bike practicals use the challys or the clutch bikes?
What did you use?

Anonymous said...

Madam Al

Please provide the facility to paste a picture here.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

aljuhara said...

thanks :-)