Monday, November 23, 2009

Use that helmet! - Chiang Mai, Thailand

(Summer 2005)
Green light! I speed up and skirt columns of cars. When I'm past the intersection I see something on my left: moving figures that form a dynamic mass, which releases a cop that wants me to stop. I have to slow down, I park my bike and get ready for the scene that he's going to stage.

The smiling officer asks my papers, then points to the basket where I left my helmet. While I think that he's right I watch the traffic in front: a flood of bikes transporting cereal sacks, household appliances, dogs, cats, fowl, whole family groups, including elders and kids, with shining black hair whirling in the wind. They all have a helmet, secured to the handlebar or tied to a ring just below the saddle.

I smile as well as I listen to him: "You go to the station, pay five hundred baht, then you bring here the receipt and we'll return your bike" I should get on a cab on my way there and on another one to come back here. "I must return the bike to the rental shop, I don't have much time, can I pay here instead?" He starts to giggle, pretends he's embarrassed, and after five seconds asks two hundred baht. "Let's make it a hundred..." He smiles again, looks carefully around, pockets the money and tells me off: "Next time be a good buy, just wear that helmet..."

Photo by Fabio Pulito

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