Singapore Adventure

Friday, March 17, 2006

Helmets and Seatbelts and Laws, Oh My!
by venitha

"Put on your seatbelt," Jim said, looking over his shoulder as he eased the car into reverse.

I sighed but said nothing and, a moment later, obeyed. He was right, of course, but it was still irritating to be told what to do. By him, and by the law.

Yet I remember blithely telling a long-distance college boyfriend not to make the two-hour drive to visit me if he wouldn't wear his seatbelt.

I also remember glaring with annoyance at my Colorado neighbor as she waved her unhelmeted son off to school on his bike.

And I remember a police car behind me blaring "Pull the bike over!" on its loudspeaker, causing my friend Shari and I, two teenage hooligans riding double, to nearly swerve into the ditch.

In a mere nine months, Asia has transformed me, and now the US and my former self seem paranoid, hysterical, hyper-vigilant to a ridiculous point.

Jim and I have dug for seatbelts to no avail in cabs in countless countries, only to be assured in a babble of accents that there is no need: it's not the law.

In Taiwan and in India, entire families speed crazily through city streets on a single scooter, Father driving, Mother clasping his waist with one arm and Baby with the other, Big Brother standing boldly upright on the seat in between. Not a single helmet in the mix.

Even in proud-to-be first-world Singapore, bike helmets are a rarity, and it's common to see multiple riders balanced precariously on a single bicycle, racing the dark evening streets of without a light.

As predicted, living and traveling in Asia has changed me in ways unpredicted, but to have transformed me into a Britney Spears defender is truly astonishing.