And I was in trouble again.
“Don’t shout!” shouted Anita, my Taiwanese wife.
“He was going to crash into us!”
“No he didn’t.”
“No, I know he didn’t, but he nearly did.”
“But he didn’t.”
I couldn’t argue with that, which is almost always how these things end – probably because I’m usually wrong.
Or just too stupid to win.
Anita had been learning to drive for eight weeks, and this was only her second foray onto the roads since passing. Actually, it was only her third foray onto the roads ever, given that her instruction took place in some kind of deserted parking lot. The final test itself was on the road, but given that:
(a) the instructor told her she was going to pass before she started
(b) everyone else there she talked to passed
(c) on making an ill-considered turn in the test, the examiner asked her if she wanted to go back and try again, then seemed to ignore the fact that she had initially fudged it,
I didn’t have too much faith in her ability to avoid getting us both maimed.
We decided to take it easy, and slowed down so we could cruise behind the bus for a while, perhaps even doing a public service picking up any overflow. It reminded me of the first time we’d gone out on the road and found ourselves behind a rubbish truck for twenty minutes (I’m referring to a trash-collecting vehicle, rather than a cheap, or badly made one).
“This is nice,” I smiled, trying to calm things down, “do you remember when we were stuck behind the trash truck.”
“Yes,” she said tensely, eyes fixed straight ahead.
“It’s okay,” I laid a hand on her shoulder, “you’re right – we should just relax and stay behind the bus, take it easy.”
“I’ve been trying to pull out for ten minutes,” she answered through clenched teeth.
Our first encounter with the highway was perhaps the experience that sticks mostly in my trousers, pardon me, I mean my mind. Being Anita’s first ever experience with full-on road driving in Taipei we had made the sensible decision… and decided to drive to Wulai. Now it’s not that far, but it does require a little highway driving. We had, as a precaution filled the car with Anita’s mother – for moral support – and a friend of the family, who was apparently quite a good driver, and kept staring at me. As we approached the on-ramp, everyone tensed, and the mother-in-law gave a rather extravagant belch, which I took to be, perhaps, either a warning or a gesture of good luck. Things went well, and almost magically a space opened up and we sort of staggered into it, in spurts and starts.
“Well done!” I applauded, at which she started to slow down, “what are you doing?”
“Change lanes,” she announced with a degree of concentration.
“You’re slowing down to change lanes?” I asked, my hands scrabbling lucklessly behind me for any sign of a seatbelt.
“Yes,” and her tone brooked no suggestion of impropriety.
Mother-in-law belched again, which this time, I think was definitely fear-related.
“Slowing down to change lanes?” I wasn’t going to let this lie.
“Yes – dangerous,” she replied.
“It certainly is dangerous if you slow down.”