Thursday, April 1, 2010

Island Eyes Syndrome

I’m doomed, I am, like all foreigners who live on sub-tropical islands. Slowly, we all go crazy. I’m saying this now, after all these years, because I think it may be happening to me. And I need to tell you now, before my worst fears are realised. This way, you’ll remember, won’t you, that you read it here first?

I know you are are willing me to fast forward quickly now, but first I’ve got to do a quick rewind, back to the time when it all began. Halcyon days, they were. You see, I walked everywhere on this island. I was all legs, proudly striding out and about with thigh and calf muscles rippling in the sunshine. Then I bought a bicycle, and I was reduced to oscillating knees with my feet moving around in tiny circles. And then, last year, I bought a car, and I was further restricted to almost imperceptable movements, with only my feet pivoting on my heels and occasionally pressing pedals A, B, or C. That’s Accelerator, Brake, and Clutch for the technically minded.

The thing about an island is that you can only travel in circles or near-circles. Basically, there are only two choices – the coastal road all the way around, or up and down the volcano, which involves one double hairpin bend after another. Road markings are virtually non-existant, since they fade at the same rate as the paint dries under the intense sunlight. I won’t even mention the road signs, which nearly always point to where you’ve just been.

But its the roundabouts that make you crack. Roundabouts here are a recent import from civilisation. And nobody knows how to drive around them. You can sense the thoughts circulating in the brains of other drivers as they approach a roundabout - It looks like a racetrack, so it must be a racetrack! Is the fast lane on the inside or the outside? Is straddling the two lanes preferable to zig-zagging? What are the correct finger signals?

So when you start driving here, the blood drains from your legs and rushes to the brain. Your over-excited brain, with zillions of thoughts wizzing around, does strange things to to your behaviour.

Yesterday I dropped Kathy off in the narrow one-way road outside the post office and slowly circled around the block to pick her up five minutes later. We have giant blocks here, on account of all the grand hotels and apartments sitting in their own grounds with swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and private parking lots. 5 minutes is about average to circle around a typical block.

But 5 minutes for an over-excited brain is easily more than enough to allow all sorts of distracting thoughts in. One of the major benefits of this island is the semi-naked women ambling curvaceously along the pavements. Crikey! The guy in front, with his head rubbernecking, actually braked!

So it’s 6 minutes later, and suddenly I’m wondering where I’m going, and why. Dammit, I passed the post office one minute ago and didn’t even notice. Hopefully, there was a long queue in the post office. So I carry on around the block for a second time. 5 minutes later, I realise I’ve overshot the post office again by that same one minute. My thoughts had been elswhere again.

I’m ashamed to say I repeated the above circular sightseeing tour once more, before I was brought to a sudden stop by the sight of Kathy in the middle of the road, arms wide outstretched, with tears pouring from her eyes.

Luckily, they were tears of laughter. “You are completely, utterly NUTS!!!” she exclaimed, as she leapt into the car. So I gave the obligatory finger signal to the tooting mad lunatic behind me, and off we drove. Our next stop was to drop her off for a quick 5-minute visit to our local bank branch......


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