Monday, January 23, 2017

Global Positioning Superfluity – Erich

Call me chicken if you must.

We had to fly from Kochi in the Indian state of Kerala (in the south) to Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan (in the north). But our flight had an overnight layover in Mumbai. We arrived into Mumbai at around 10 at night and flew out the next morning just before noon.

Having no desire to spend the night in the airport, Alrica found us a hostel in which we could stay the night. It turns out it was close enough to walk between the airport and the hostel and we actually did walk back to the airport on the following morning. But, being nighttime, we did not choose to walk to the hostel. Instead we used an Uber.

Uber has been a huge help on this trip. In many places it is very efficient. You pay through the app by credit card so you don't have to have the proper cash or the right size of bills. Plus, the drivers can't cheat you by purposely taking the long way around and running up the meter, because Uber gives you an estimate of what your fare will be. Great, right?

Usually, yes. But like so many things in India, this was harder than it needed to be.

First we requested the Uber. Now, it is pinned to your phone, so the app knows where you are. But we were in the airport and there is a specific place for the driver to meet you there. We went there. Our driver did not. At least not at first. You can watch where your driver is on the app, and he must have circled the airport roads at least half a dozen times. He was apparently unable to find where he was supposed to be.

But he did eventually (probably after 20 or more minutes) find the right place. And we would have been better off if he hadn't.

This guy was young. Not only did he look young, he drove like he had just gotten his driver's license yesterday. He met us in the airport parking garage. Just trying to get out the garage, he was clueless. He couldn't follow the signs that said "Exit" and had arrows pointing the way. He would miss every single turn. He would always go too far, then have to put the car in reverse, back up, and make the turn.

You know how some cars can "turn on a dime." This car couldn't turn on a merry-go-round. I'm not saying the turns he was making had a radius as wide as the Large Hadron Collider, but had we be subatomic in size, CERN might have been watching us to determine if we were Higgs-Bosons.

But it wasn't just missing his turns. He would manage to stall the engine every time he had to switch gears into or out of reverse. Then, in our last big turn of the parking garage, he again missed it. This time, when he backed up to make it, he hit the car behind him. Twice. Yes, he hit the car the first time. Now all the men in the parking garage are yelling at him. This flusters him, so his solution is to roll up his window so he won't have to hear them as loudly. Then he fails to make the turn again, and backing up the second time, hits the same car again.

The experience in the parking garage should have prepared me for what was to come. Because missing turns was kind of this guy's thing. His GPS is telling him "turn left in 100 meters." Maybe 300 meters later, he's trying to figure out where he is supposed to turn.

So we are in the vicinity of the place, and he has missed his turn, made a U-turn, gone back, and missed the turn again. So he stops sort of halfway in a lane of traffic and halfway out of a lane of traffic. This may seem crazy, but actually that's more or less standard India driving practice. This was probably the best maneuver he had executed during the entire ride.

So I tell him that he missed his turn, it's behind him. He needs to make the U-turn again and try it once more. But he decides he doesn't want to make the U-turn again. He wants to get this over with. So he puts the car in reverse and drives backwards in one lane of traffic to get back to his missed turn.

What exactly does he want to get over with? Our lives? Because even at 11 at night, this is a pretty busy road. And he is going the wrong way!

In case you were worried, we lived. We didn't even hit any cars, though I give most of the credit to the cars veering around us, and not to our Uber driver.

Now we are on a tiny narrow street where there is basically only one way to go, and even then he missed his turn. I guess he figured he could keep going through the building that was straight ahead of us. (No he didn't hit the building, but he did have to back up again. And stalled his engine again. Twice.)

I'll admit walking to the airport on busy roads that don't really have proper sidewalks is a bit risky. And we did have to cross an incredibly busy street. But it had a walk signal. But the walk signal only lasted five seconds. By the way, that's not an exaggeration. The walk signal has a countdown timer, and it begins at five. Even with all of that, we were far safer on the walk back to the airport than we had been on the way from it.

Someday I might like to return to Mumbai, to actually get to see more of it and spend a slightly longer time there. But if I do, it won't be so I can again enjoy the risk-your-life thrills of an Indian form of the game of chicken. And I think you would feel the same.



  1. Bahahahaa! I'm sure this was not at all funny at the time, but reading it was hysterical! Thanks for the laugh as I sit on my comfy familiar non-reversing couch. ;)