|  May 30, 2012

My mum doesn’t drive anymore; this should send a shudder of relief through you all. Mum is one of those endearing, yet confounding, elderly Thai ladies who meander when behind the wheel. I have been known to attempt to squeeze my not inconsiderable frame into the foot space as she stops in the middle of Nimmanhaemin to admire a particularly full-blossomed road-side shrubbery. I have also blushed with mortified indignation as I have seen people I know give her the finger as she pulls across multiple lanes of traffic – at the speed of flowing lava – to get a closer look at some passing fancy. She has had multiple accidents over the years; with our garage door, our gateposts, our staff’s motorbike, and on three memorable occasions, our other family car…while reverse parking. The fact that our cars are riddled with, er, character, has filled our family with a sense of unified glory. After all, we are not like anyone else, what with their boring gleaming chrome and spotless chassis.

I, on the other hand, don’t meander; I aim and I compress the pedal. Citylife’s staff argue about who has to go in my car, and considering they never seem to put their helmets on when riding motorbikes, I tend to get rather insulted at the speed the seatbelts are fastened. Yet, I have only had two accidents in my years of high velocity driving, both have broken things, once a bone and another a squid stall. Both were fixed…with great humility on my part.

According to urban legend, we, Asian women, are just about the worst drivers out there. They have made up many jokes about our kind. I represent their implications.

Last week I tried to send Kaew, a young girl who works for us, to take some driving lessons, so she can start driving mum around. We called up a driving school and were told that a course would cost around 3,000 baht and consist of five sessions, after which, she would be road ready and worthy and can apply for her drivers’ license. I don’t claim to know much about driving lessons, after all dad taught me, and my entire driving test consisted of reversing around the corner, before the test bloke passed me to then rush off on a lunch date. So I headed to the fountain of all knowledge, Google, to find that the UK, for instance recommends 45 hours of lessons prior to sitting the test. In France, a minor is expected to drive under supervision for 3,000 kilometres before even thinking of getting a license.

We seem awfully lackadaisical about our road safety over here.

I took Kaew out myself one day to see how she was getting along. We took my little jazz down to Prasertland (where I learnt how to drive nearly a quarter of a century ago) and for an innocent hill tribe girl from Om Koi, I am ashamed to say that she drives like me; slightly recklessly, filled with an overabundance of misplaced confidence and with more speed than sense. Oddly, she seems to embody some of my mum’s more charming driving characteristics; Kaew too, likes to stop and look at things. We found this out as she reversed around an imaginary nun, only to plunge us off an imaginary cliff into an imaginary raging gorge – I like to pepper and enhance my driving classes with flair and drama – as she checked out some young boys on motorbikes.

So, while mum may be off the road, I fear I have replaced her with Kaew. If you happen to give her the finger – and chances are one of you will one of these days – I have taken the precaution to explain to her that some well meaning people like to point out when you are on a one way street. After all, I must protect her sensibilities. And you must all protect yourselves.

Drive safely. Chuckling and chortling aside, we see far too many accidents on Chiang Mai’s roads, so many of which are preventable with good education, diligent respect for the rules and caution.

Citylife this month:

It is the Off the Wall issue, so we bring some whacky, some weird, some wonderful and some simply WTF stories and photos to you. I interview long term resident Hans Bänziger on his fascination with, and lifelong research into, blood- and tear-sucking moths. We discover that Jim Rose lives in Chiang Mai and managed to track him down. Jim Rose is considered the inspiration and father of all Jackasses and other extreme stunt showmen. I begin a series looking to profile just some of the expats from a certain nationality; we start with the Swiss this month…apparently they like our green mountains, after all there are over a thousand of them living up here.