I’ve hated the taxis since I moved here. More reckless and less dependable than Bosnia or Kosovo, and none of the good excuses. I’ll be killed by one of the speed-demon SOBs one day, I’ve told colleagues. Worse than the Balkans, and none of the good excuses.
Yesterday, 10am, the 1 bus. I decide to sit in the seat between the back of the driver’s seat and the partition, to give myself some peace and quiet in case I get a job call. Five minutes before my stop. The driver inhales sharply and I look up.
Time really does appear to slow in those moments when death lunges for you.
What the driver of the SUV taxi was trying to do, I’ll never know. He came out of nowhere. I saw his face – his eyes and mouth open wide– and he surely saw mine through the window.
People say your life flashes before your eyes in near death situations. This is at least my second such situation, and I can tell you that hasn’t been true for me. No flashes of my childhood, no lovers’ faces, no aborted plans for the future, no bitter regrets.
When that taxi was about to collide with the bus, only two things crossed my mind:
1) My life insurance policy hasn’t kicked in, so I’ll be leaving my massive debt to my family. FUCK!
2) My life insurance policy hasn’t kicked in because my mother accidentally mentioned that I might be traveling abroad to dangerous places. How pathetically ironic and appropriate.
Breaks. The taxi comes to a jarring stop inches from impact. The driver curses loudly. Passengers gasp.
In those milliseconds before, I was fully aware of the mechanics of what would happen. The side impact would have occurred at exactly the right angle and speed to fatally crush me between the driver’s seat and the partition. In my mind’s eye, I saw how the metal and plastic would compact against my soft, defenseless body.
Hours later, I was less shaken than furiously angry. That afternoon, I was informed that I didn’t get the job in Dushanbe, the last of a long, long line of overseas jobs and internships I’d applied for. I called my mother and told her the life insurance company can process my policy now.
If I was more spiritual, I’d look for meaning in the sequence of events. But I’m not, and I see none, just the meaningless avoidance of a stupid and meaningless and long foretold death by recklessly-driven taxi.
Indeed. The upper part of the state I live in is pretty much: the Balkans – the fun things, delightfully rude humour, and reasonable excuses for dysfunction + more internal violence.
I’m glad to not have been squished like a bug, but I’m troubled by the fact that my last conscious thoughts would have been about life insurance and student loans. Kind of an effed up mentality, don’t you think?
Well maybe it would be nicer to go while thinking of tulips and reciting Rumi, but as long as you had clean underwear on.
I would think so.
Since we are on a mortality theme…
Random anecdote: a Bosnian colleague once told me that she and her school friends put extravagant effort into looking sassy during the siege of Sarajevo –extra makeup, best clothes– because they knew that what they put on in the morning might be the last outfits they ever wore, and they wanted to go out looking their best, as a big FU to the world and a way of exerting complete control over some aspect of their future amidst the chaos and uncertainty. If the British were all about “stay calm and carry on,” the Bosnians were more “stay calm and party on.”
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