Monday, August 08, 2005

An experiment gone wrong

Teddy de Burca Jnr. just wanted to take a taxi from Phan Thiet to Ho Chi Minh City, but found himself in an experiment to try and travel at the speed of light

It wasn’t far out of Phan Thiet when I realised I was with a taxi driver who had set his mind on achieving what you would think was obviously impossible – to travel down highway one at the speed of light.

It would be nice, I suppose, to arrive at your destination as you left. To be there before you knew it. To see the other side of the galaxy or to go boldly where no Vietnamese taxi driver has been before.

But the car was not modified to any Star Trek specifications. In fact, the whole vehicle was juddering as the car tore down the busiest road in the world, weaving in and out of articulated lorries and buses, like there was no tomorrow.

I thought about pointing out to the taxi-driver-cum-scientist that there were two eventualities to this experiment. Either, we would crash, into one of the other thousand automated vehicles around us, and burst into a ball of flames. Or, he would succeed and we would travel at the speed of light but that, according to Einstein, would mean our molecules and atoms would obliterate in a colourful blaze and we would be nothing but cosmic dust sprinkled upon an earthly road.

Either way, we were doomed. I knew that. But he obviously didn’t. So why didn’t I speak? If I had, I hear you say, nothing would have happened. But hindsight, you will agree, is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

So I sat in dumb silence, well, not quite. I could hear the music in my headphones. Isaac Hayes, crooning about a backstabbing love affair, “If loving you is wrong…” We will crash I thought. “I don’t wanna be right,” sang Isaac.

And then, I thought, enough is enough, I will tap him on the shoulder and say, listen buddy, it just isn’t happening, not today, not with me, I would like to live. But the taxi driver had already seemingly given up on life. He had taken his eyes off the road, despite the fact that we were now travelling at a hundred thousand miles per hour, and his eyes were scanning the horizon, across the lush paddies, his thoughts, perhaps, recalling an incomplete romance from his past, and Isaac sang on, “I don’t wanna be right”, and my eyes looked ahead, and I saw the stationary truck we were hurtling towards and I said an unprintable four letter word.

I will not speak of the impact, my gruesome injuries, or the imminent debacle of getting from a country road to a foreign hospital. Nor will I speak of the operation or the rehabilitation. But, I will recommend that when you find yourself in a taxi or on the back of a motorbike, if the driver is trying to travel at the speed of light, be direct, be swift and tap the fellow on the shoulder and say, “No. Not today. Not with me. Just ease off the gas and let’s enjoy the ride. I’m in no hurry. I’ll even give you the gist of Einstein’s theory of relativity along the way.” Or forever hold your silence.


francis franklin said...

Sounds like a driver I had upon living Hanoi for the umpteenth time. Was your dude talking in his mobile and winking at the ladies?

pittstop designer said...

This man had no time for the ladies. Just a need for speed.