Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Extreme street crossing - Episode 8
I really didn't have much reason, or opportunity really, to cross the street while in Venezuela. Our hotel was on what appeared to be the main drag. Lots of stores and such up and down from the hotel and virtually anything you could want was on the same side of the road. I did; however, have a couple of experiences crossing the street - during daylight or just post daylight hours - that were.....harrowing, shall we say?
Day 2 - Opening Ceremonies. This event was held in a nice stadium that was conveniently located directly across the street from our hotel. It started right at dusk, so while there was still plenty of daylight, all of Team USA crossed the street. The street was a 6 lane with a decent size median in the middle, so if you could only make it halfway across at one time then that was ok. No serious issues crossing over to the stadium, ceremonies happend, Miss Venezuela was there - the boys went nuts, and the shindig ended. Leaving the stadium it was definitely dark outside. Probably 8ish at night, but still quite busy out as it was Saturday evening. There are stoplights in Venezuela, not unlike here, and if you're lucky there are also the crossing lights. I'm pretty sure there was no crossing light in front of the hotel, but we can all see red and green and it's pretty easy to judge when it is and is not safe to cross the road. Myself and a female athlete were standing on the corner, being the first two out of the ceremony, waiting on the light to change so we could cross. The light turns red, traffic stops, nobody is turning right, so we proceed to try and make it to the median. Not halfway out in to the road, light still red, a motorcycle comes flying through the intersection right at us. I grab the girl and pull her backwards as I'm exiting stage left myself. I swear these people don't know what a stoplight is. My best guess is that stoplights only apply to vehicles with 4 or more tires, and those with two just kind of have their own traffic laws. Regardless, we made it across safely after that incident.
Day 5 - The Lunch. You might recall my last blog where I discussed the volleyball lunch, and my adventure with Todd to every ATM within a 3 block radius. This adventure involved a good bit of street crossing. To start with, it was midday on a Tuesday - lunch time. People take lunch in Venezuela just the same as they do around here. It's a busy time of day to say the least. As we walked up to where we needed to cross to get to the pizzaria, I noticed that there was a crosswalk - of all things, a crosswalk - only it wasn't at an intersection, nor a light of any sort. Nope, just a crosswalk, in the middle of the street. Anywho, I figured a crosswalk in the middle of the street is about as good as it's gonna get around these parts, so myself and another athlete or two decide to brave it. Traffic is flying by like mad. I'm pretty sure these people have zero traffic laws, and if there are actual laws........well, they just don't follow them at all. It's kind of like double dutch - when you're watching the ropes turn, and you want to jump in, but you have to time it just right. You're trying to feel the rhythm, and when you think you've got it you make a break for it and run in. That's what it was like crossing the street. A few busses, or box trucks, or SUVs would fly by, and you'd gauge the next few cars coming up the road. Was there time to make a run for it? Would it be safer to just wait for the light to change, 2 blocks up? Two lanes are traffic free, but there's a car whizzing up lane 3 - so we should walk up to lane 3, wait for the car to fly by and then shoot the gap to the median. This scenario is ineveitably what happend. Now, on the opposite side of the median there was considerably less traffic. The light on the next block did a superior job of stopping up the flow coming at us, so we were able to just cruise across. Once 3 or 4 of us got over there, we decided that we didn't want to eat at that joint, so we braved it and walked back across. Actually, walking never really happend - we stutter-stepped really. A half jog, half walk, half back track sort of jig if you will. Once we were back with the rest of the team we decided that we'd rather have the pizzaria, so we braved the traffic yet again.
By the time we had to go do the ATM run, I felt fully confidant that I could cross the road under any circumstances because I'd already crossed about 10 times in 10 minutes. We sailed across to the ATM and coming back was no sweat either - it was the inbetween that was blog worthy. After lunch I crossed by myself cause I had to catch a bus back over to the University to cover Track & Field. Miraculously I survived that too.