So, today I had a slight brush with death. Don't worry Mom I'm fine, but I still feel deeply rattled. Basically, I was being a moron and started to cross the road when I thought I had the right of way. Instead, it was the other traffic that had the right of way, and while blindly pedaling along, I looked up to see a white Camry slamming on its brakes. Once it came to a complete stop, about a foot away from my bike, the driver, who really had every right to kill me, blared its horn and gave me the universal, "Are you a total moron?" look. All I could do was sheepishly put my head down and slowly pedal across. About a block later I think I started to breathe again.
Thinking about this experience I realize I've been lucky. I never was trapped in a burning building, caught in a nuclear meltdown or held up at a convenience store. No, when it comes to death I've been pretty clear of its grasps. I think the only other time I thought I was going to die was when I refused to pay a taxi driver in Mongolia twenty cents. (Drum roll - yep, you are going to get the story)
One day we were walking through a typical "ghetto" of Mongolia when a car pulled off the dirt road and started towards us. We didn't think much of it, I mean when you see camels tied to a telephone pole and old women squatting down in public to urinate, you really think you've seen it all. Anyway, the driver of the car got out, and while pointing at us, starting yelling "Two Hundred turigs" or basically "20 cents." I couldn't really understand what he was saying, but I knew we didn't owe him any money. I figured he was just trying to intimidate us and steal our money. Therefore, I refused to pay and told him to leave. In response to our refusals, he picked up a large rock and cocked his arm back to throw it at us. I instantly shielded my head and watched the rock fly by me. Let me emphasize that this guy was about three feet from me, and had this rock made contact, I would be brain dead. Finally, we were able to get away from him and ran to an apartment complex.
Now the not so funny part. So, every driver in Mongolia is a taxi driver. All you have to do is flag a car down, tell them where you want to go and then pay them on the kilometer. I really think it's an ingenious idea. Think about walking to the store and all of the sudden you don't want to walk anymore. Flag a car down and there you go. Anyway, cars in Mongolia were always on empty and it was not unusual for drivers to actually turn off the car while going downhill to conserve gas. One day we got into a man's car, and before we had traveled 200 yards, his car shut down. We were in a hurry to make an appointment, so while he was getting gas down the road, we hopped out and flagged another car down. The man who demanded his 20 cents...was the man who's car we left. So, I had seen him before and I did owe him some money. Point for Kate.
Death...not so fun.
* The above picture is from one of John Cusask's greatest movies. And no, it's not the one where he holds up a stereo.