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The Guilt Trip

6 October 2008

So you remember one week ago when I said I wasn’t going to travel anymore? Do you? Because apparently, I didn’t. I need to read my own blog sometimes. (Who am I kidding? I do read my own blog, and I even chuckle at my own wit. I am so self-centered.)

Anyway, those of you who know me probably know I have a hair-trigger guilt reaction, i.e., if you want me to do something that I most likely would not choose to do on my own, just lay on some guilt, and I’ll do it. Unfortunately, it also works in reverse – I often use guilt to get what I want. I think I inherited this. Just kidding, family! HA HA ha heh hmmm… *cough* … oh, would you look at the time? Must be going now.

This past weekend, I went on a “guilt trip.” A friend here was having a birthday, and he wanted a group of us to go to a resort out in Pondicherry for the weekend. Now, as you will remember, I didn’t want to travel anymore. I wanted to stay in my room, play hermit, and have deep conversations with my now-animate stinky clothes. But, noooo, P. was not going to have this. “But it’s my birthday! You NEVER go out with us. You’re leaving in three weeks! What’s that smell?” The guilt settled over me like a warm blanket, and I had to get out from under it – it’s too freakin’ hot in Chennai to be under a warm blanket. So I went.

That’s when I got a lesson on learning to stand up for myself because I spent the whole weekend sick. It was a nice resort and all, at least I think it was. Well, okay, the bed was comfortable, and there were a couple nice places to sit and wallow in my own misery. But that’s about all I really saw. The whole weekend was over rather quickly, and honestly, it would have been better if I’d just stayed home. And safer, too, since even when the weekend was over, there was still the ride home.

Remember when I said I’m not much for riding in cars in India? Let me rephrase that — I HATE riding in cars in India, especially when that car is driving on East Coast Road, known locally as the ECR or “What are you, crazy? You’re going to drive on that?!”.

ECR is the type of road where there are a lot of buses (48 a day between Chennai and Pondi alone, not counting all the other destinations), and those bus drivers, they don’t like waiting for anybody, especially not fellow bus drivers. So even though the bus in front of them is going 100 kph, 20 kph over the speed limit already, the bus behind just has to get around, it just has to. And it doesn’t matter what’s coming the other way – an auto rickshaw, a herd of goats, or you in your rinky-dink Indica. Especially not you.

As you see this monstrosity of a public transportation system pull out into your lane, headed right for you, you have a choice to make – either (1) stay in your lane, hoping and praying that the bus will make it around the other bus (because God forbid the driver would slow down and pull back behind the other bus) and that no other vehicles decided that blindly following a large bus is a brilliant time to overtake with no regard for what is headed straight for them, OR (2) you can choose to pull over.

Those of you playing at home might say, “Well silly, that’s easy, just pull over.” Oh, but you are forgetting the most basic road rule of India – One lane CANNOT be used by only one vehicle/person/animate object at any one time. Therefore, barely a foot to your left side is most likely a family of five balanced on a motorcycle (with the baby sleeping peacefully on her mother’s shoulder – how do they do that?!), a large cow with massive horns that will most definitely skewer you as it flies across the hood of your car and through the windshield, and an elderly woman who decided right at that very moment to take a rest on the roadside line because the white paint is much cooler than the pavement on, say, the front stoop of the tea stall safely away from the edge of the road. So there’s your choice – hope and pray for the miracle that the bus will make it OR swerve and likely kill six people and a cow.

This very much reminds me of that question on my Criminal Law final about the train conductor who has to decide whether to (A) keep going along the track he’s on, which has collapsed over a bridge, or (B) switch to another track, where two men are working and a small church is having their annual picnic (or something like that). (Don’t ask me why a church would be having a picnic on railroad tracks. That wasn’t part of the essay question, and, if law school taught me anything, it’s to answer only the questions that are actually asked.) If he chooses option A, there is a possibility that he and the others on board will die; however, if he chooses option B, the two men on the tracks and the ten people at the picnic will definitely die. We didn’t have to make the choice for him; rather we had to discuss the possible criminal charges and defenses to these charges that would arise from either choice. Now I realize, not so helpful in real life, Professor.

When I say “your choice” in the ECR problem, I don’t really mean my choice – I mean P.’s choice. And as I rode in the little rinky-dink car with no seatbelts, pondering my fate, I began to wonder, Is P. the type of guy to kill or be killed? Now this isn’t the type of question you ask a friend with whom you haven’t played Truth or Dare or drank copious amounts of liquor. So, having done neither with P., I was left to wonder. (Though with the crazy way P. drives – Mike termed it “masterful,” which should give anyone who knows my husband a clear picture of P.’s driving, I would bet good money he’s the “kill” type.) So I wondered. And was terrified. Really, really, really terrified. Like shaking to the point of nervous exhaustion terrified. I spent most of my time in the back of that car trying not to throw up and praying that God would get me home to my husband safely.

Well, I made it back to Chennai safely at least, and now I’m paying for the weekend by being up half the night sick as a dog and missing one of my last 15 days of work. My body’s reaction to fear appears to be much like a Touch of India.

This time I really mean it – I am done traveling in India. Done. Done. Done.

Before the Terror - Enjoying a quiet moment at the beach with friends

Before the Terror - Enjoying a quiet moment at the beach in Pondi with friends

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Unity permalink
    6 October 2008 6:02 pm

    Ah guilt, it is a lovely device–isn’t it? Glad you made it back safe & sound–now stay put till you come back here–K? Hope you feel better.

  2. 6 October 2008 7:55 pm

    It would suck to lose you to a cow skewering just days before you return home. Be safe! I’ve never even been to India and fear gives me similar symptoms. Hmmm.

  3. Paisley permalink
    9 October 2008 6:05 am

    TaTa spells Thoma-Longa.

  4. Mom permalink
    15 October 2008 5:52 am

    Must have inherited the guilt-laying gift from your father- certainly not your mother.

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