I'll never forget my first driving lesson: Matamoros, age ten, and combi.
Actually, it shouldn't really be called a "driving lesson." It was just a sort of test run, a chance for me to prove to my cousin Hugo that I could drive his truck back to the house alone after we picked up his car from the shop; it went something like: "you can drive, right?"
"Yeah, I think so." That was that. No vocalized are you sure? or when was the last time you drove? But that wasn't necessary. My cousin knew I was lying; after all, I was only ten. I probably wasn't lying, but just delusional. At ten, I could play Orbison's "Pretty Woman" on guitar but I was still too short to get on the Texas Cyclone at Astroworld. Maybe, Hugo thought that I'd get luckily, or more importantly, that he'd get luckily, and I would turn out to be of some help around his house.
Before I knew it, I was in the driver's seat of what I remember to be a nice truck for the time, maybe a mid-1980s GMC Silverado. I cranked up the engine; put it into drive (too bad it wasn't a standard [de cambios] - it would have saved Hugo some money and me some embarrassment); and "¡dale gas!" We were cruising in Tamaulipas.
Everything seemed to be fine on the nice, empty back road, but that only lasted for about thirty seconds. Soon enough, we hit a busy intersection and the lines in the streets started getting blurred to every one around me; it seemed that I was the only driver who knew they existed.
My head began to spin as cars, buses, and combis weaved and bobbed around me, paying no attention to the rules of the road (¡ay México!) In and out, in and around, in and out, honks and stares . . . I blanked in the middle of it all as soon as this white combi taxi raced around me and began to slow down all of a sudden in order not to hit a large bus. I really panicked and didn't know what to do even though Hugo was telling me very clearly to slow down and veer to the left, but like a tracker beam, I was locked-in, destined to hit it.
A combi serves as a small bus, but it's not even a bus (check out above); it's more like a crappy van with a million people hanging out the sides, really safe and effect means to get around the city. Ultimately, they served as an annoyance for drivers like me. Now, I didn't plow into the combi, but I scrapped it as we flew down the road side by side trying to avoid hitting a very large bus.
Immediately, Hugo calmly asked me to pull over, and I felt so ashamed. I could hardly look at him, but he was completely cool. We got out and took a look at the damage, and he wasn't even bother by the serious dent and paint peeling I had just added to the front of his truck. I couldn't believe it.
I'll be forever indebted to Hugo's coolness, and I'll never drive in México again.