14 July 2007
After another airport “situation,” Erin & I arrived in Cape Town literally as the fog was rolling onto the tarmac. Ours was the last flight allowed to land before closing the airport. I’m guessing this was my payback after months of bad luck! The car service (there is no public transportation in Cape Town that can be safely used after dark. Heck, there is hardly any that can be safely used during the day) dropped us at our guesthouse.
We both assumed it would be two bedrooms in a shared house. No sir. We, in fact, have our OWN HOUSE - two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with tub), a kitchen, living room and screened in sun porch. Our hostess with the mostest (Lets call her Tiny) showed us around before giving us our key and explaining how the extremely complicated padlock worked on the door. “Now, what time would you like breakfast served,” she asked. Shocked that there was a served breakfast, we spouted out 9AM for no particular reason. She headed out but before she reached the door Tiny turned to say “Oh, and the whole complex is guarded by electric fence, so don’t worry about safety.” Erin and I had officially broken through to the other side. I went from one room in an electricity-less, quaint township home to my own house behind an electric fence in posh Bellville. This drastic change played loops in my mind all night.
Fast forward to this morning at 9AM, when Tiny and her trainee (we’ll call her Not So Tiny) popped in to deliver our egg and bacon omelets, toast, strawberries, yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit and an assortment of spreads. After devouring our guilty food, we agreed (with Tiny’s advice) that renting a car for three days made more financial sense. Unfortunately, neither of us could really drive stick, which meant we had to reserve the ONLY automatic at Avis, which they were going to deliver to our door at noon.
Noon rolls around and we watch out the window as a BRAND NEW MERCEDES pulls up, Avis woman hopping out in her bright red “Avis jumpsuit.” So now we’re living in our own house behind an electric fence eating omelets made for us while driving a Mercedes around. All I could think was, “Am I really in the same country?” Swinging from one extreme to the other was honestly disrupting my ability to think. Still, we had projects to visit so I signed twice, initialed seven times and promised to give Avis my first-born if the car was stolen, and we were off.
Needless to say, driving on the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of the car for an American who hasn’t been behind the wheel for months was more than entertaining. I broke on through to the other side on numerous occasions. With Erin “maps are silly, I think it’s that way” Gordon to my left, we never actually got to where we were going on the first try. Most notably, on our ride back from Cape Town to “the burbs” this evening, we missed our exit by, oh, 15 miles, ending up in a roadside garage (gas station) after accidentally running a red robot (traffic signal) looking for M15, which was conveniently NOT located between M14 and M16.
After locating said M (again, 15 miles back the way we came) I dropped the shifter into drive and made a right out of the gas station, only, I pulled into the FIRST LANE, which was on the WRONG SIDE here. The fast-moving oncoming traffic (two vans carrying 10 people each) began flashing their lights at me. I looked to the left in an attempt to veer to my side of the rode, but there was a car in the second lane coming at me as well, which left no room for a lane-change. Meanwhile, the guy in my lane is not slowing down and has decided instead to continue to move at 60 miles per hour and just flash his lights and honk his horn, as if that is going to get me to move or something.
I am now completely stopped, unable to go left because another car is coming, yelling at the guy heading straight at me to move in a desperate attempt to avoid using our front and side airbags. He’s not slowing (why, I have NO IDEA. I mean, wouldn’t you slow down?) and he’s not changing lanes, so Erin and I brace for impact, both screaming at the top of our lungs for the guy to SLOW DOWN.
He’s getting closer and closer and closer. No pace change. At this point, I’m wondering who is really at fault for this impending accident. Yes, I’m on the wrong side of the road but he could have ABSOLUTELY stopped in time. Now the van is honestly 25 feet out and I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that we’re going to crash. Erin throws the map, as if to build a wall between her and the vehicle. 15 feet away and my hands are firmly grasping the steering wheel. I’ve pushed my head against the headrest, in hopes of avoiding whiplash. 14…13…12…11…10 feet (HONEST TO GOD) and all of a sudden the driver cranks his steering wheel and swerves around us, missing the front fender by no more than 20 inches. I turn to my left. Erin’s jaw is on the floor. I reach down to pick it up, put on my blinker and merge back onto the right (left) side of the road, as if nothing had happened.
We eventually made it back to the guesthouse and pulled the Benz behind the electric fence. All unnecessary talking had stopped post-almost-crash. As I popped the gearshift into park Erin turned to me, put her hand on mine and said “great driving today Kyle.” She was 100% sincere. Apparently she missed the whole near-death thing? Still, it would have been one dramatic way to end the World Tour, huh? Huh? Huh?