Friday, October 27, 2006

Beating the sound barrier
First of all I'd like to apologise for writing about the traffic once again, but I wouldn't be doing it unless I had made somewhat of a revolutionary discovery, which I'll get to later.

As we all know for expats that have to ferry themselves around on motorbikes, the traffic in Vietnam's major cities is kind of a barometer for how long left they have in the country.

People who keep throwing tantrums at the traffic lights or screaming at mild mannered xe om drivers are gently encouraged to take a break by their friends, a long weekend in Thailand, perhaps (the country that, if it didn't exist, would have been invented by exasperated expats in Vietnam).

People who start losing hair or show disturbing signs of diminished mental health, over facing the daily traffic, perhaps, know themselves it's time to start checking for jobs in lands afar. (You will inevitably receive an email from them in two or three months complaining about sitting on buses wherever they end up – no pleasing some people).

While for those who spontaneously combust in the middle of the motorway after one too many industrial-sized horn beeps in their ear, sadly it is one day after the day they should have left. "Alas poor Protec helmet, I knew your owner well."

But, all of this can be avoided, and I am here to help.

For the last year I've been collecting earplugs, even occasionally buying them (although this happens when I'm abroad as chemists don't seem to stock them in Hanoi). Vietnam Airlines are also very obliging (Cho xin cai nut tai! "Please can I have some ear plugs").

Then all you have to do, back on the roads in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, is pop the little blighters into your ears. The deafening city will be instantly neutralised.

It's not like you're listening to music and are now blithely unawares to the out of control bus careering in your direction. You can still hear the beeps. It just doesn't hurt so much.

Instantly, your whole riding-in-the-traffic-persona changes. You mellow out. You take in the sights. Breathe the fumes with a nonchalant air. Smile at passing commuters. Stop for pedestrians. Whistle at the traffic lights. Arrive for work with a "look who got out of bed on the right side this morning" air.

It will change your life. In fact, without the slightest bit of evidence I would bet you a bundle of small denominations of dong that people who wear earplugs probably live longer, happier, more rewarding lives.

When you take them out is optional and depends on how much you enjoy listening to your work mates complain about the traffic.

(Don't people talk about anything else in this town?)


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singlet said...

i hear ya, i hear ya. wish i heard sweet nothing - viva la earplugs.

Anonymous said...

i think i read this article in a magazine before??????

pittstop designer said...

yes - teddy sometimes writes for timeout magazine and this is his and others' blogspot...

teddy's timeout articles appear here (and there!)

...our way of reaching out to the world!

Anonymous said...

Ah.....the joy of discovering ear plugs! I remember the day also. I was just a wee scrap of a thing, no higher than my house front door. Bliss it was to shut out the pain of the bicycle brake banshee.
-the gogorider