Thursday, May 26, 2011

Motorbikes and potatoes - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Photo by kibuyu (CC)
Finally out of the training center. I'm walking home with that vague feeling of exhilaration caused by fresh air after a day's plunge in an air-con sea when the typical metallic sound produced by an accident - its unmistakable motorcycle-against-a-4-wheel-vehicle variant - digs its nails into my eardrums.
I turn around and I see a motorbike of the Honda Dream type caroming between the queuing cars like a pinball ball among the springs of the game's rattling mushrooms. It has already hit a van when I start to watch the scene, then it proceeds between two lines of cars, alternatively bouncing against the coachwork of a vehicle on the right and one on the left, until it finds an empty space, threads its way into it like a blue fly into the chink of a window and keeps riding along the course that will lead it to a collision with the rear bumper of a Japanese sedan, it's a hopeless situation, you can read it on the face of the guy and on the movements that he's trying to convey to the handlebar: at this point he has already lost control of the bike and he won't be able to avoid it. Judging by the glittering of paint and chromium-plating this car interior still smells like new - it's a smell that one, not a bad one, but not a scent either: only gasoline and some fragrances of the Little Trees, in the world of automobiles, really smell good.
When the impact takes place the guy does what many people do in this kind of situation, even though it should be the first thing to avoid: he keeps speeding. The bike bends over and slowly falls to the ground. The man touches the asphalt with an awkward move, but he doesn't get hurt. His wife though, who sits in the back, falls like a sack of potatoes. She also looks like a sack of potatoes, by the way, but right now it's the dynamic of her movements that reminds me of this image. How she bends, hits the ground and keeps rolling when the bike has already come to a stop, while the engine revs up because the wrist of the guy got stuck on its initial position, I mean the one he had when he was shooting between two lines of cars - still along a straight path, not a zigzagging one - and that he hasn't changed ever since.
The man stands up, he can't be bothered to collect his potatoes, and starts to shout abuses at the driver of the van, the first pinball mushroom that he hit. Maybe this man was actually the one to blame, I'll never find out, because after replying to the biker with diversionary tactics, pointing and gesturing at a car that has already disappeared behind a curve, he engages the gears and after a few seconds he has also disappeared behind the curve.
The man is called for debriefing by the owners of the damaged cars, the sack of potatoes stands up just like a sack of potatoes that is being lifted by a farmer and oscillates for a moment around her point of stable equilibrium, somehow like a matrioshka, until she stops upright. In the meanwhile the potatoes that fill the sack where her bottom, torso and breast should be are rearranged according to the laws of three-dimensional geometry and gravity, occupying the vacant spaces of the new configuration. Then, dragging her feet (because even though she resembles a sack of potatoes we don't have to forget that she is still a human being and therefore is equipped with feet), she joins the lively group.
I leave them at that, after having followed the nth lesson of the Principles and elements of Oriental Societies course, a mix of couldn't-care-less attitude, male chauvinism, passing the buck, lightheartedness, fatalism, optimism and many other things that will occur to me later, while I keep walking under a leaden sky that looks like monsoon rain but could actually give us dog days sunshine. Thoughtless and indifferent: even if I still cannot act like that in a completely natural way I know that it's a perfectly suitable attitude. After all, they are the ones who transmitted it to me.

Accounts of more accidents (first hand experience) and more principles of Eastern sociology can be found here.

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