Back in the mid 90s, my best buddy and I used to ride our bicycles down MG Road in Poona. The weather used to be great, but the sights were even better. We’d tell ourselves how the only reason we’d crash would be cos our eyes were on some pretty young thing in little shorts instead of the traffic. Things are different in Poona now, but that little fear i had never disappeared. More than the fear, it was the shame and embarrassment of explaining to someone that you crashed ‘because booty’.
During the road trip last month there was a point where my friend had to take a wee. Somewhere in the south of Peru, I stopped the car at a gas station, and parked in front of a little store, with the bathrooms at the back. She headed in, and I waited. When she finally came out, i turned on the ignition of the car, put it in reverse, checked out the rearview mirror, and slowly started backing the car out.
Right then, a woman crossed my vision in the rearview mirror, looking something like this, swaying what her mama gave her, knowing fully well she had put the entire frame into slow motion.
So i got a little distracted. Just a little. But a little’s all it takes.
The view went from the rearview mirror to the sideview mirror. From the sideview mirror to the side. From the side to the front, and she walked away. She just kept walking. And i was transfixed. Not ogling, not drooling. Just marvelling and appreciating one of God’s billion pieces of work.
I hit something… I realized the car was reversing all the time while my eyes were somewhere other than where they should’ve been, which in this case was the rearview mirror.
I raced my sight back to the rearview mirror. A hand came out from under the boot of car. Obviously, not something, but someone. I hit someone.
The hand grows into a full arm. A uniformed arm. Then the head pops up. A cap on the head. The cap looks familiar. It’s a cop. I reversed into a cop.
The guy started screaming in Spanish. Walked up in a huff against my side of the window, and mouthed off a few quick lines in spanish what sounded like ‘WTF ARE YOU ON IDIOTA?‘
I panicked. Instead of PERDON! PERDON! (sorry! sorry!), i screamed PERMISO! PERMISO! (permission! permission!) and i frantically pointed at the woman still swaying down the horizon. He looked at her, stared at me trying to figure out what the hell i meant, looked at her again, and then laughed real hard. My heart was racing at 200 bpm. I don’t have a valid license to drive in Peru. And I’ve almost run over a cop.
He asked me where i lived, i told him Lima; asked me where i was from, I said India. He smiled, shook my hand, told me to focus on the rearview mirror while reversing, and left.
That was one of the most embarrassing moments of the trip so far.
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