201. 110kmph

On Friday night at 9.30P.M., I drove a car full of people 200 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur to the historical town of Malacca.

(not that Kuala Lumpur is any less historical. But the Ministry of Tourism needs some way of selling the place, right?)

I’ve driven to Malacca a couple of times in the past. Almost every time, I get caught going over the speed limit by a speed camera. This time, because I was entrusted with driving Ann Na’s car there and back, I was doubly determined not to get caught by the cameras.

I was going to be a law abiding citizen, dammit.

So I kept to the speed limit. Which everyone seemed to be alright with – well, everyone if you don’t count the loudest little lady I’ve ever known. Let’s call her Sue.

Sue is of the opinion that I drive too damn slow. There’s a lesson here to be made about speed and relativity, but she’s not one to listen to such things. So she continues to make comments along the lines of: “Joseph, I’d like to get there by today, please.”

(she’s neither that polite nor eloquent, but let’s stick with this. A more realistic depiction of her speech patterns would involve me typing in all caps)

I did 80kmph in the 80kmph zone. When it was raised to 110kmph, I did 110kmph, and went up to 120kmph a few times when the stupid driver in front of me didn’t realize the utility of the slow lane. All in all, I obeyed the law, tried to keep everyone out of trouble and danger.

(as a general rule for 3-lane highways: slow lane for vehicles below the speed limit, middle lane for vehicles about the speed limit, and fast lane for vehicles above the speed limit)

Sue obviously didn’t share my interests. Neither did many people in the past, I think. A few choice quotes from the past:

“Who the hell keeps to the speed limit??”
“Go Jo! Don’t let them get in front of us!”
“People die from driving too fast on the highways. I think in Joe’s car, we might die from driving too slow.”

Well.

If my theory about people’s driving styles matching with their true personalities is accurate, then I’m largely an unconfrontational coward. I hate getting into people’s way; I stay away from quarrels and disagreements; and I certainly wouldn’t dare to break the law. I’m too young and pretty for prison!

I’m not sure how other people feel, but I thought that going at about the speed limit is pretty alright. It’s a respectable speed – not too slow that we’d feel ourselves aging as the kilometers passed; not too fast that I feel nervous behind the wheel – just enough that we can get to our destination within a reasonable time.

The main reason why I drive slow, though: I’m afraid of dying.

There we have it. For all my talk and jokes on the subject, I actually dread the notion of the next great adventure. More specifically, I am terrified of the idea of the few seconds that precedes death. The feeling of spiraling out of control. Of one’s own essence slipping away. Of that cold, eternal darkness enveloping over. Of pain – unbearable, unimaginable pain that must come as one’s life is ripped from this earthly shell.

Yes, these are things I think about when I drive.

Every now and then, I see the news about a car crash in which 3 people died, and I think about how that could be me. Along with all the stories I have not told, all the things I have not written, all the things I have not said. When I begin to zoom past the other drivers on the road, the lines seem to blur past quicker than usual, the image of the bloodstained tarmac comes to mind.

That could be me. Along with everyone else in the car. I slow down to 110kmph.

“JO! WE’RE GOING TO REACH THERE AN HOUR AFTER THEM!” Sue screams from the passenger’s seat. I keep quiet.

I think I can live with that.

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170. Driving Stick

So my car refused to start today.

I had woken up to the chilly morning air, very reluctantly dragged myself out of bed to wash up and get dressed for work, and it just had to be my car that refused to work.

I had half a mind to refuse to work myself.

But Dad was home, and he would be terribly disappointed in me if I skipped work like I skipped class. So instead, I asked if he could send me to work. He looked up from where he sat, and said:

“Why don’t you take the Viva instead?”

Ironically, the Perodua Viva (that’s the car’s brand and name) promotes anything but that which its name implies. Especially the one that I was told to drive. It’s a pathetically small car, only a little bigger than a Smart Car, and the worst part is that it’s on manual transmission. In other words, stick. In other words, the bane of my existence.

Luckily, my driving education demanded that I learn to drive stick, and it was only after I got my driver’s license that I received the privilege of going auto. With only a little more than an hour to drive out, get breakfast, and get to work, I took the keys to the Viva and went straight out.

(strangely, all my driving accidents seem to happen only when I drive auto. I famously accumulated a total of 3 collisions within the first week of getting my driver’s license: with my neighbour’s car, with a car parked by the side of the road, and with one of those industrial-grade bins in which they throw broken pieces of concrete)

Driving stick is a unique experience. It gets you up close and personal with your car. When you press the clutch and shift into gear, you can feel the pulse of the engine running up your arm, and in that instant, it’s like you’re one with the vehicle. You know, kind of like getting an electric shock. Just without the jolt and the potentially heart stopping voltage.

I had a friend who drives stick all the time, and he told me that it helps to keep him awake on the road. I cannot agree more. The sheer terror of having the car suddenly stalling on the road is enough to keep my adrenaline levels up the whole trip. I mean, forget bungee jumping. You want to feel alive? Try driving a manual car. It’s just as exciting, with the chance of your vehicle getting rammed by another, possibly bigger, vehicle at high speed.

I’m glad to say, however, that I have made it to work safely without any collisions or stalling incidences. I even managed to have a proper breakfast before arriving at the office and punching in 3 seconds before the clock hit 8.30A.M. I now look forward to a full day of, well, doing whatever I want, because there apparently isn’t any work for me to do.

Then at 5P.M., the adventure begins again!