(This picture contains foreshadowing. What do you think is about to happen?)
After we got out of the airport, we were greeted by our family and taken home in a rented van. From my seat in the middle of the second row I had a really good view of the road in front of us, and consequently spent the entire trip trying to suppress the urge to laugh.
Most people here get around on scooters. As I watched them, I kept getting the suspicion no one on the road was headed anywhere really important. Probably anyone who actually cared about getting to their intended destination in this lifetime would not travel around so many other scooters and cars either without having or without following any rules regarding speed, distance from other vehicles, turning, passing, or trying not to die Traffic signals seemed more a suggestion to stop rather than an obligation.
The sheer, constant life-threateningly dangerousness of it all was fantastically, horrifyingly amusing. Any time at which I as a driver would have slowed down to make sure not to kill someone (multiple scooters I would have sworn must have grazed the vehicle, people on foot running across the road and looking likely at their present speed to cross paths with the van, swarms of scooters turning in front of us to get to the other side of the road), my uncle would honk the horn and otherwise decline to react in the slightest.
I know humans are all the time disconcernedly doing things that are bad for them or will lead them to an early death just because that's how they've learned to act, but I have never seen such an incredibly immediate display of that behavior. If I had been at the window seat, I could have reached my arm down and patted crazy people on the head (or helmet, rather. In the few years since Clay's been here, it seems they've started actually requiring the scooter riders to wear helmets for some reason) the entire way home!
Only I'm a crazy person, too, because I rode around Saigon on the back of one of those things earlier this week now. And also later while my driver uncle was drunk, because I had no other ride and didn't know any way to insist on some other means of transport, which ended with us stopping to discuss a drink at the cafe (just after we slowly and calmly drifted into a near head on collision with a large blue truck, though I don't think anyone else noticed).
Earlier while we were chatting with the family back home, Clay tried to suggest to Cousin Liem that he should go swimming in a canal, to which Liem said back, “I don't want to die early.” (This conversation also included Thao discussing her hopes for her baby's gender with us: “My husband, he say if baby is girl he happy, if baby is boy he hit me.”) I liked his response, only now it keeps running on loop in my head as we swerve to turn in front of buses and screech to halts as we nearly hit other swarms of scooters on the other sides of buses.
If we get to go to Saigon again, I want to go by bus. This doesn't actually mean I *will* get to go by bus. I'm just saying.