Friday, June 27, 2014

a driving rain

I have a friend who is quite the literalist.

"Literalist," as in interpreting words and phrase very specifically; not someone who enjoys a good read.

Take the title of this post.  "A driving rain."  He would say that does not make sense.  If a driving rain is rain that is coming down very hard, it should be called a "can't drive in it rain."

He has a point.  Even if it fails several logic tests.  And I should have taken his advice.

I have mentioned several times that one of the cardinal driving rules in Mexico is to not do it at night.  Drive, that is.  There are too many hazards lurking in the dark.

I now have a new corollary to the rule.  Don't drive in the rain.  At least, the type of tropical rains we have around here where the bumper of the car in front of you simply disappears -- as if David Copperfield had moved his shtick to Mexico.

Yeserday on the afternoon drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport, I encountered one of those rains when I was just leaving the hills south of the city.  About an hour into the drive.

My Escape was behind two cars driven by people far wiser than I.  When I encountered a break in the rain and in the traffic rushing at me, I passed the leaders in my lane.  I prefer to see what I am about to hit, rather than sitting in the mist of another vehicle.

And I did.  Hit something.  A pothole that must have been the import route for cheap souvenirs from China.

My dashboard lit up like a jackpot-paying slot machine.  But there was no big payout.  My GPS screen flashed.  The status panel flashed.  And then the electron lotto settled on the message: "Low tire pressure."

So, what should I do?  Up north, the answer would be easy.  Pull over.  But I was on a two-lane hilly road with no shoulder.

There were, of course, a number of reasons for the light.  I decided to believe the most optimistic -- that there was an error in the reading.  (Planes fall out of the sky when piloted by people like me.)  But I did pull over on the first patch of road-side mud I found.

All my tires looked normal.  So, I let all of the people I had passed since leaving Puerto Vallarta slowly roll past me, and I pulled in behind.

The next gas station was 20 miles down the road.  Everything looked normal to me on a walk-around.  To test my visual, I added a bit of air to each tire.  They were not noticeably low. 

Best of all, the warning light went out.  The thought of changing a tire in the "can't drive in it" rain was not a role I looked forward to playing.  I would do Willy Loman before taking that part.

During the four-hour drive, I thought of a conversation I had with my seat mate on the Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta flight.  Somehow, we started talking about economic theory and the doctrine of liberty.  It turns out he is an economist.  The type of guy who ends up on CNN as a talking head.

That makes sense.  He was born in Mexico, but is now an American citizen with a background in finance.

At one point, I felt as if I was being interviewed.  We covered immigration, the strengths and weaknesses of the gold standard, the roots of monetarism, and how the Republican party may be passing up a great opportunity to appeal to all Americans (including Hispanics) as a party of Opportunity.  (Jack Kemp's name kept popping up.)

I do not get to discuss these topics in depth with any regularity.  Too often, people are so stuck in their positions that they fail to see that their own interests may be suffering in the process.  Conversations tend to get to the first sentence and then peter out.

I had a similar episode on my flight to Mexico City from Paris earlier in the month.  My seat mate turned out to be someone I have referred to several times.  (When I told him I would be writing about our conversation in my blog, he asked that I not use his name.  I suspect a number of you have already guessed, though.)

Meeting people whose writing I like is always a crap shoot.  Good writers do not always have good personal skills.  In this case, I sat and listened to a monolog on Mexico's potential as an economic powerhouse, how history is often Mexico's worst enemy, and what to listen for in the best of Mexican music.

And right there are two reasons I enjoy traveling.  I certainly would not have run into either one of them sitting in my hot tub in Salem -- or sweating on the terrace in Melaque.

So, even if there are potholes on my journeys, being a traveler makes it all worthwhile.

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