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September 21st, 2008:

Mario Kart D.F.

Last night, I left my safety blanket in the glove box. In a burst of confidence, I drove home in Mexico City without using my GPS, and I didn’t get lost.  Yes, so maybe it was less than 10 miles, and it was from the school that I had already been to 2 times, but you will just have to trust me that it merited a feeling of pride.

As I was driving, the thought of my high-school friends Todd & Matt leapt into my mind, and how they probably have no idea of the part they played in preparing me for this point in my life. And how did they help prepare me? Many hours of playing Mario Kart on Nintendo (or Super Nintendo, or whatever derivative it was in the mid-90’s).

A graphical representation of your average Mexico City traffic interaction

A graphical representation of your average Mexico City traffic interaction

To highlight the parallels:

  • Incredibly narrow lanes of traffic through which one must tightly maneuver. The ‘main’ road I take through neighborhoods out towards my school in the burbs has 3 lanes, but, as one of my friends commented, if you had 3 cars stopped abreast, I don’t think you could open any of the car doors.
  • Numerous sharp curves requiring rapid steering-wheel spins, with various obstacles ranging from traffic barrels in your lane, to people selling gum and/or phone cards, to mammoth buses.
  • Exciting off-roading options like navigating potholes the size of a small goat, to speed bumps (a.k.a. topes) that seem to be formed from only-partially-submerged watermelons.
  • I fit in amongst these drivers (with my blonde hair & Virginia license plates) about as much as the Princess fits in with the other Mario Kart contestants. Initially I thought there was a greater similarity, but after a few weeks of driving now, I realize that Princess Peach was NEVER able to drive as aggressively as I have already learned how to do here.
  • Bumping other drivers was always a favorite Mario Kart move for the lower-skilled players (i.e. if I can’t win, I’m at least going to make it as hard for you as possible). While I have yet to be sideswiped here, I figure it is only a matter of time.
  • The best way to drive here is to closely tailgate another local driver. This a) lends towards your credibility as an aggressive, crazy driver who other drivers should not mess with, and b) since they invariably know the roads better than you, they will know when to swerve to miss the goat-sized potholes, so you can mirror them & do the same. Conveniently, most of my Mario Kart time was spent in 2nd place (or lower), driving behind someone else’s car, so I am well-prepared for this.

Anyway, let me take this opportunity to officially thank Todd & Matt for the hours they spent mocking me because I am so crap at video games. Although their words seemed harsh at the time, without that training period, today I would clearly lack the nerve to fight erratic taxis, intimidating buses, and your average truck whose bed is filled with dead chickens on ice:

 

To me, this screams "we have mastered the concepts of proper poultry refrigeration"

To me, this screams "we have mastered the concepts of proper poultry refrigeration"

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