The motorbike or motorcy as the Thais call it is liberation, freedom and tears stuffed inside a hand grenade; in its most pedestrian form, a means of transportation. But if you look at the legs of most Thais you will see the scars, marks, and damage from a motorbike accident. Everyone has a story to tell (in fact I just heard one today) and I think everyone knows someone who has died. I know I do.
If Thais could afford it, they would drive a car, but motorbikes are cheap (relatively speaking) and accessible. And if you’ve seen any photos or have traveled to SE Asia you know how many motorbikes there are. They are everywhere, non-count nouns. I knew I was lucky to have a car back in the United States. Oh, how I miss my independence!
Ironically, as I write this I can hear a motorbike driving down the road at record speeds. It sounds like someone got a new toy and is enjoying the cover and coolness of the darkness. Speed and drinking are definitely the culprits of so many tragedies, but those are simply words – the true subjects are sons, fathers, daughters and mothers, but who am I kidding, mostly men. But maybe the numbers aren’t as bad as everyone would lead me to believe. After all, death is part of living.
As a child, I thought nothing of riding through the moo baan of my mother’s hometown or the dangers of riding on the back of a motorcycle around Hawaii. But as an adult you are told of the accidents, you see the old man fall off his bike when a truck collides with him and you feel unbelievably exposed and vulnerable breathing in the choking exhaust, zigzagging traffic and bumpy pothole ridden roads.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that once I got over my terror of being on the back of the bike, I liked it. I didn’t like it when my ex told me that he could feel my body tense up during turns and accelerations. I felt like a failure because I wanted to be fearless. Instead (don’t laugh) I went to “my happy place”. I started to become fascinated with the passing landscape: the night, the other people in traffic, the street vendors, the clouds, dogs, cats, rats, grass and whatever signage in English I could read.
Gradually, I started to relax. But I don’t think I’m a very good passenger; I have a long way to go, and yet I’ve started to enjoy the wind in my face and the thrill that comes from being alive. I think what I equally love is feeling the joy that comes with conquering my fear.