Monday, October 19, 2009

It's All Relative

Let Me Drive
Let Me Drive
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
“What's 80 kilometers in miles per hour?” I muse as we head north out of Santa Rosalia in the piece of junk 1983 Chevy Van we just christened Rucio. The van is American, the road is Mexican, the kids are international digital natives unaccustomed to the rhythms of land. I peer at the gauge, absolutely certain I'm barreling down the highway at a dangerously fast pace.

The gauge, however, says we're moving at about 25 miles per hour.

Now I'm a Californian, born and bred. We don't go a mere 25 miles per hour even when we're backing our SUVs down the drive way to get the mail from the box on the street. Stop and go traffic is when you're moving at 75 down an L.A. freeway 3 feet behind the bumper of the car ahead of you. We invented the Hollywood Stop. Our legislators are single handedly responsible for raising the federal maximum speed limit from 55 up to a reasonable number somewhere just short of light speed. For gods sake people, I've ridden my bicycle faster than 25 on the American River trail.

But Mera hits the nail squarely with her polite query, “Mom? Are you speeding? I think you may be going too fast...” Her voice trails off with gentle solicitude. Mera doesn't want to be critical, mind you. On the other hand, if I'm behaving irresponsibly, her life might be in danger. She'd like to know I'm aware of the situation.

My brow furrows in concentration as I spare another glance at the obviously flawed speedometer. There were other things wrong with this hunk o'junk van. It desperately needed a tune up, for example. Prior to the tune up, it tried to kill us. The windows don't roll up, and the handle on the starboard passenger door fell off yesterday. It could just be the speedometer doesn't work. It persists in reporting that the van is moving at pace appropriate for a school crossing zone when clearly you can see the landscape whizzing by at supersonic speed. I slow down, “Mera... I don't think so but...”

Dulcinea weighs in on the topic. She leaps up to my lap, paws on the steering wheel and takes over for a few minutes. “Meeerrooow!” Apparently she agrees with Mera. We're going too fast. She jumps down and hides underneath the seat. Dulci isn't one to fool around. When the boat's really moving, she finds the safest, snuggest spot.

In the meantime, a pile up of cars has now decided I'm out of my flippin' mind. One by one, they accelerate and zoom around Rucio. As they pass, the drivers and passengers peer in at me trying to ascertain what mad idiot with California plates is doing 20 miles per hour on the highway. Perhaps it's a fat old white guy having a coronary or maybe a slim, slick hipster catatonic from caffeine withdrawal after attempting to get a fix at the non-existent Starbuck's in Rosalia. But no. It's just one frazzled-looking soccer mom with a deep tan and a panicked expression.

The gauge must be right. It must be. Against all instinct, I press firmly on the accelerator. We're going to go faster. We must go faster.

Mera asks again, “Are you sure?...”

“I'm pretty sure we're not even going the speed limit,” I say defensively. “We're just not used to this speed.”

l/v Rucio
l/v Rucio
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
This is a light bulb blowing up in my brain. None of us has traveled at faster than eight miles per hour in over a year. Most of the time we've averaged five. Now we are rushing along at four times that speed. It's utterly terrifying. I courageously push harder on the pedal in an attempt to achieve the posted speed of 100 kmh all the while delivering a pep talk to induce the old familiar state of lead foot. “We can do this, Mera. I'm a great driver. We can do it!”

My cheer leading is met with Mera's profoundly disapproving silence. It's going to be a long trip to Albuquerque.

1 comment:

Zen said...

yay! Banzai!!