Monday, January 10, 2011

The 'Wrong' Side Of The Road

It was my first proper day in Chiang Mai. I crept down the creaky wooden stairs, past the computer area and open air lounge, to where the sofas and chairs overlooked the small but pretty swimming pool to find... that someone else had had the same idea. That someone else was female, had greying hair, and the unfortunate urge to chat with whoever came along.
As she proceeded to tell me all about her trip to the south, barely pausing to ask me my nationality (Oh, I've found Australians to be rather friendly), she had intruded into my vulnerable, still-sleepy world far more than I had imagined anyone could. I had no idea what to say to get myself out of the situation, because she just kept talking. Fortunately, her ignorance became to rear its ugly head in ways easy to satirise.
"So, you know here, they drive on the wrong side - do you drive on the wrong side of the road in Australia?"
I decided to be kind and not give a totally biting response. "Well, it's not the wrong side..."
Unwilling to admit to her culturally insensitive ways, the woman, enfeebled, nevertheless tried to recommence her reflections, but I told her that I wanted to write in my diary. I think she suspected that I was writing about what a moron she was for the rest of our uneasy silence.

But seriously, Pico Iyer has used this trope of 'the wrong side of the road' when it comes to vehicular activity as well; wake up, people: America isn't the centre of the universe! What may feel 'right' to you isn't the default option in the grand scheme of things! Imagine how absurd it is to think of a whole country of people going. "Well, I've had my breakfast, and now I'm going to drive to work - on the wrong side of the road!" Does the typical Australian do this with a traditional sense of pride, or a twisted one? "Little do poor, unsuspecting Americans know that by cultivating this culture of wrongness, I am subtly influencing events overseas, to the extent of making poor US travelers feel downright disoriented when visiting countries like Thailand! *cue evil chuckle*"

;o)

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