You Think Apple Maps Are Bad?

“My current home address is 200 meters north of the Pizza Hut then 400 meters west…” says San José Mayor Johnny Araya

As I’ve documented here on this little ol’ blog, in May of this year I spent a week of my life in San José, Costa Rica.

Having been reared in New Mexico, the Land of Mañana, I am not unfamiliar with the more laid back ways of Latin culture.

But even to me, Costa Rica was a bit of an eye opener.

People walk down the center of major roads and cars accommodate this.

Buses stop on the freeway to pick up passengers who wait between two lines painted on a guard rail. The bus drivers shout “¡andele!” as it’s not really a stop as much as a fast roll (I rode the bus in San José, an experience not soon forgotten).

If a dog happens to trot out into a major road everyone laughs and says, “¡Ay, perro!” as they stop and wait for the hound to find it’s way through. (Costa Rican’s LOOOOVE their dogs)

And directions? Forget about it. After growing up in Albuquerque with well marked roads laid out on a grid, I always carp about California’s lackadaisical approach to marking roads and exits.

Compared to Costa Rica, California looks perfectly well organized. The roads in CR go all over the place and everyone just seems to know how to get there. Thank the god (my Costa Rican employee’s favorite expression) that my Tico minion drove me everywhere because I would have been utterly lost.

And let me tell you…Google maps don’t know nuthin’ about how to navigate San José.

So this evening while winding down with a nice glass of red, I smiled when I saw this headline:

San José, Costa Rica to install its first street signs

However, it wasn’t the headline that made me grin. It was this quote from the article:

“I don’t think it’s going to work”, 29-year-old taxi driver Manuel Perez said. “If a tourist tells me to take him to a hotel in whatever street, I’m going to say ‘you’re speaking to me in Chinese,’ because I don’t know where that is. I need a landmark.”

That is so the essence of my beautiful, magical, insane as the day is long but also kind as the day is long Ticos.

By the way, the cab drivers in CR are THE BEST. The running dialog I’d get during rides was priceless. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment.

These were my most favorite road signs in Costa Rica. They mean “give way” and were posted everywhere, on every corner and road and driveway. No one ceda’s the paso to ANYONE. These signs might as well say, “have a nice day” for all the good they do.

Image from Wikipedia and used under Creative Commons.

Inauspicious start to the week

As mentioned before in these pages before, I have become a full blown commuter, taking a train and shuttle bus to get to and from work.

It’s one of those “when it works, it works great” type of deals. To be honest, the whole thing usually just works. Easy. Since my company subsidizes the cost of using commute alternatives, I can ease my pocketbook from the pinch of $4 gas.

However, this morning was one of those days where it didn’t work. Oh, all seemed fine. I walked to the station. The train arrived on time. I climbed on. Hey, I even got a good seat!

Then I overhead the conductor on his cell phone. “Hit, huh? At Menlo Park? Ok. Delays of up to an hour. Ok, I’ll make the announcement.”

Ruh rho.

Yup. The train in front of us hit a pedestrian. And since dancing with a train never goes well, the whole operation had to come to a halt.

My train stopped at a station that was just far enough from both home and work as to be troubling. The conductor told us to get off and figure out what bus to use or whatever. Ugh.

With a cell phone on the last vapors of battery charge, I called a cab and paid an inordinate amount of cash to make it in to work about an hour late.

*sigh* All’s well that ends well.

In other, better, news, I’m happy to see in the ABQjournal that it’s official as of today, the New Mexico quarter is OUT. If you are in Santa Fe, there’s even a little ceremony.

Yay! I can hardly wait to have one in my hand! W00t!

We’re going big time, Oh Fair New Mexico!

In a flash

You ever have one of those times in your life where you seem to be getting the same message over and over and over? As though the fates are trying to drum something into your head. As if all the kismet is just too much to take.

Yeah, I’m having one of those times in my life.

On Thursday I went to an exhibition at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. It was the Titanic exhibit with artifacts recovered from the sunken ship. Now, we all basically know the story of the Titanic, James Cameron saw to that, so I was sort of nonplussed walking into the show. They did a nice job putting together the time line of the events and using lighting and mood to bring the story together. From placing your hand on a big chunk of ice to looking up the name of a passenger they’d given to me on entry to see if they survived (she did).

It moved me deeply.

At the end there was a book for thoughts and comments. I wrote, “The fragility of life has never been more apparent.”

It put me in a mood and I thought on that topic for quite a while. I followed the Titanic exhibit by then going to “Bodies…The Exhbition”. So yeah, I had a bit of an overload of “life is fragile” and “make hay while the sun shines” that day. Sort of odd thoughts to have while in Las Vegas.

Basically I spent some time contemplating my own mortality. Is this a hazard of being mere weeks from a birthday?

On Sunday I was in a cab going to McCarran airport. The seatbelt in the cab didn’t work. I thought about how I almost never wear a seatbelt in a cab. I then thought about how that is silly. Just because the driver is on the roads for a living doesn’t make them any better driver or make the roads any safer. Thankfully we made it to the airport without incident despite my not wearing a safe belt.

I boarded a plane and arrived safely to the Oakland airport, got my bags and caught a cab home. I complimented the driver on how clean and nice his cab was. The man had a lot of pride in his car. He told me about how he’d lent the cab to a friend who had returned it dirty. It was a nice new car.

We made our way along the highway and stopped at the toll plaza on the San Mateo Bridge. We were in the far left lane. The next two lanes are FasTrak lanes (if you have a little electronic transponder you can go through without stopping and they charge your account for the toll). As we sat at a standstill, a black Mustang came whipping into the FasTrak lane. I guess he realized he didn’t have a transponder so he slammed on the brakes, threw it in reverse, got going way too fast, lost control, hit the brakes, spun backwards and slammed square into the door I was sitting next to. Demolished the door.

Surprisingly, I was fine. The cab driver commented that he saw me leaning way over. I saw the accident coming but couldn’t move over because I had a seat belt on. Now, I wouldn’t say I shouldn’t have been wearing it. I’m glad I was because I really thought we were going to be slammed into the concrete abutment next to us.

I saw that car hurtling at me and I had that, “I’m going to get really hurt” thought.

Thank whatever entity you choose that I was fine. The door buckled in but the inside panel was only partially bowed. When we came to a rest the door panel wasn’t even touching me.

And as the fear and adrenaline coursed through my veins, I got to thinking again about how things can happen in a flutter of a heartbeat. And that thought scares the shit out of me.

So I was left shaking my head when I read Jim Belshaw’s column “Don’t Forget You’re Human” from yesterday’s ABQjournal, the same day of the accident and my latest thoughts on mortality. Seems Mr. Belshaw was having the same thoughts.

To quote Mr. Belshaw, “Wear your damn seat belt”…even in a cab.

Confidential Side Note To Fate: I get it already.