As I write these words, maybe 30 seconds has passed since I ripped the bandage off my left arm, just below the elbow.
And it stings.
It will sting, I suspect, for a few minutes.
But now that it is exposed, the raspberry-colored, two-square-inch spot that used to be covered by flesh that was scraped off by Xuân Diê5u road will scab over more quickly.
Let the healing begin.
It wasn’t Xuân Diệu’s fault.
And this time it wasn’t mine either.
Nope, this time it was all because of the idiot taxi driver.
The cabbie, I suspect, was completely oblivious.
Did he see me go down in his side view or rear view mirror?
I doubt that he’s ever used them.
The man (a safe assumption – I didn’t get a good look) is a menace.
Vehicles are seen traveling on a street in Hà Nội
He had me remembering the road rage I witnessed during my first week in Hà Nội.
I didn’t see the collision, but I saw the aftermath.
The motorbike was down on busy Âu Cơ Street and the taxi had stopped.
The motorcyclist, who looked to be in his 30s, punched the middle-aged cabbie twice in the face.
The cabbie didn’t try to defend himself, and I felt sorry for him.
But the cabbie who caused my latest, scariest and nastiest encounter with the streets of Hà Nội . . . well, if there’s anything to karma, somebody somewhere will punch him in the face someday.
The stinging has stopped.
The air feels cool on the wound.
The healing has begun.
I try to learn from these rude, wrong-of-way encounters.
I’ve been tooling around Hà Nội on my second-hand Yamaha Nuovo for more than two years now, and I’m confident enough to take the two big kids a few kilometers on familiar streets to and from school.
Sometimes I’ll even load up the third kid, age 3, for short, slow trips in the neighborhood.
It feels very Vietnamese to do so –though I insist we all wear our helmets, a safety element some people often forget, with sad consequences.
My latest accident occurred at the T-intersection of Xuân Diệu and Đặng Thai Mai, the scene of tragedy in the not distant past.
A mom had two kids on her motorbike, neither wearing helmets.
I have no idea if the taxi driver or the mom caused the accident – but, all considered, that hardly matters.
What matters is that one child died as the result of head injuries.
Việt Nam’s traffic is notorious.
The other day, a friend sent me a video clip declaring Hồ Chí Minh City to be home of “the world’s most dangerous traffic circle.”
I also noticed the sad news about the death of noted Japanese archaeologist Nishimura Masanari, who adopted Việt Nam as a second home.
His finds contributed significantly to the knowledge of Việt Nam’s antiquity.
Masanari, I imagine, would have keen insights contrasting Japan’s polite society and its orderly, expertly engineered transit system with Việt Nam’s chaotic rush from bicycles to motorbikes to autos.
Masanari, according to reports, was riding on his motorcycle on the highway between Hà Nội and Hải Phòng when he was struck by a truck.
Masanari, I suspect, would agree with my assessment that, in Việt Nam, the concept of “right-of-way” seems to be a foreign concept.
For me, Rule No. 1 is:
The bigger they are, the harder you fall.
Never mind the traffic code, if there is one; the law to remember is Darwin’s.
Rule No. 2:
Expect the unexpected.
Both of these rules applied in my latest scrape.
Consider this a cautionary tale, because it could happen to you.
You could be driving home, quite safely, moving with the flow and slowing just a bit to make a left turn.
You’re properly positioned, just slightly to the right of the middle of the road.
Unlike some annoying Hanoians, you do not cut blind corners, knowing it could easily put you in the path of oncoming traffic.
You drive far enough to see that the path is clear, and then you turn left.
And then, suddenly, a blur enters your peripheral vision – a taxi, it turns out, that is speeding into the oncoming lane to pass you at this worst possible moment.
To avoid this idiot, you jerk the handlebars back to the right and miss getting sideswiped by maybe 2 millimeters.
You grip the brakes hard but, with heart thumping, your grasp accidentally applies the throttle as well.
Your bike goes down hard, dragging you against the asphalt.
In addition to the large scrape beneath your elbow, two strips of skin are torn from your ankle and a bit from your right palm.
All of this transpires in, oh, maybe seven-tenths of a second.
Gasoline spills from your just-filled tank.
A bystander helps you up and get your bike upright.
Alhough he does not appear to speak English, he probably understands the gist of your choice invective directed toward the long-gone taxi.
Then you get home and clean and bandage your wounds, all the while fantasizing about how, if you hadn’t crashed, you might have followed the bad cabbie and engaged in some road rage of your own – until you realize the best you can hope for is karma.
By SCOTT HARRIS