I have always been afraid of cars. I am scared to drive, scared to be a passenger, and in Armenia I am scared just to cross the street. In California when it rains people drive slowly and carefully. They take extra time, there is oil on the road and no one wants to hydro plane. Everyone jokes about Californians not being able to drive in the rain, and for the most part its true, the exception being that most Californians were born somewhere other than California, so is it really our fault?
Anyways for the most part I haven’t really been to afraid to get into a car here in Armenia. Sure the drivers here are crazy and there doesn’t seem to be any one set of traffic laws other than cars always have the right away and people must look out for them when walking. Even though sometimes I do miss getting in my car and taking a nice long drive to clear my mind, or to listen to a book on cd, it has been really nice not to have to worry about transportation. Everywhere I go someone drives me. I either take taxi when I can afford one, take a marshootni or bus, or am driven in someone else’s car. All I have to worry about is finding a comfortable seat where I won’t be sat on top of. For the most part I just listen to my Ipod and try not to look at what is happening on the road. It’s better to not see your marshootni going 60mph and swerving around a herd of cows that happen to cross the road. It’s better not to see your driver attempt to pass a slower vehicle going up a blind hill. It’s better not to see his reaction when he sees a car driving straight for us in a game of chicken.
This Friday I took a marshootni up to Yerevan to see the PC Doctors and go to the dentist. Once I arrived at the office a PC driver drove us around to our appointments in Yerevan. When we were done he dropped us back off at the PC office. I called my sister in Alapars to figure out where she was so that I could meet up with her and take a bus back to Alapars to visit my first Armenian host family. I told her I was at the office and she said she would come find it and meet me there. Half an hour later she called and told me she could not find it. I asked her where I should meet her and she described a hospital that I had never heard of. I set out walking in the direction I figured was right but just ended up walking around for 30 minutes no closer to my destination. Finally I broke down and took a taxi. I told him the name of the street I wanted to go to and we took off for our destination.
As we drove through Yerevan he spoke with me, asking me where I was from, why I was in Armenia, and how did I learn Armenian. As we spoke I got a bad feeling that this guy was taking me to the wrong place. I don’t know how I knew, since I had no idea where the place we were going to was, but I knew something wasn’t right. I called my host sister and handed the phone to the taxi driver, telling him I didn’t think we were going the right way. Turns out we weren’t the street that I told him to go to also happens to be a city and he was taking me to the city not the street. So we turn around and begin to head back into Yerevan. As he merges back onto the highway, I am thinking about how crazy everyone drives in California when it rains. I am thinking how I never like to hit the brakes as hard as he just did in the rain because you might hydroplane. I am thinking that all these cars merging over into us are driving way to fast. I am thinking… and then boom, I hear that noise. If you have been in an accident you know what noise I am talking about, the noise of glass breaking and metal crunching. I fly forward into the back of the front seat and end up half way on the floor and half on my seat as our car slides deeper into the intersection.
The cab driver looks back at me and says mi roppa, meaning he needs a minute. He gets out of the car and goes to the other driver. He doesn’t ask if I am ok, he doesn’t ask if I need help or anything. I watch him walk back to the other car a little groggily. The two men shake hands, smiles on their face. Wait I must be out of it right? I keep watching as they talk no anger on either of their faces at all. I assume they are exchanging information? Do they even do that here in Armenia? I don’t know. I look to either side of me out of the windows and notice I am in the middle of a highway. If I open the door it would cut off. There is no way out. I begin to feel a little panicked as 15 minutes or so goes by. Finally the driver comes back picking up his back bumper and tail lights to put them in the car. He tries to open the back door. It won’t open; the metal has scrunched too much over it for it to be able to open. So he opens his door and puts the bumper near the seat. I will be right back, maybe 5 minutes he tells me. Ok I say, not really knowing what else I can say. Another 15 minutes have gone by and I am getting panicked. I look back behind me and see that a car has drove up with 3 other men in it. They step out with a thermos in hand. Then five little plastic cups are disbursed and the men all have coffee together… are you kidding me? Finally the cab driver comes back. He tells me to get out of the car. With the back doors not opening I have to climb up through the front window to the driver’s door to get out of the car. He explains to me that his car won’t start anymore and he flags me down another taxi. My hands are shaking, I don’t know if it’s because I am so angry or because I was so scared. I hop into the back of another taxi and the driver wishes me good luck….
Another day, another mini disaster survived, besides I think my neck brace elongates my neck and makes me look thinner =)