“Can you drive scooter?”
“Yeah. More or less.”
She can’t read my license, and I don’t tell her it doesn’t say motorcycle. The truth is, the first time I got one was today, after I rented it.
My first motorbike ride of any kind was on the main street in Phuket Town.
When we talk about presence in meditation, what we mean is “live like you just got on a motorbike for the first time, unlicensed, in a foreign country, and you just pulled into traffic.”
There is nothing to do - if you want to survive - but be present.
So I was, second to second, for an hour, as I wound around Phuket trying to find my way back to my apartment, 15 minutes away. Stop a few times. Look at the map. Try to count intersections. Mostly, don’t crash. Don’t crash. Follow the other bikes. Do what they do. Weave through traffic. Signal major corners, but not lane changes (lanes are just a suggestion). When turning right, ride up the middle of the road past the waiting cars, and pull in front. Go fast. Anticipate everything.
When in Phuket..
When I returned home, my friend Mary said, “I was driving tractors unlicensed on the road when I was 12. You’ll be fine. It will all become more natural.”
She was right. Later, I made my way to the Tesco (Portland people, think Fred Meyer. New Yorkers, think Wegman’s. Everyone else, the store sells everything and isn’t Walmart) and it wasn’t as terrifying. Still terrifying, yes. But a little less so.
Bit by bit. Word by word, everything gets less foreign, more comprehensible. It works like this: When I pulled into the gas station with the scooter, I had no idea how to open the gas tank. None. With a long line. The attendant sighed, laughed, took my key out of the ignition, unlocked the tank, and filled it up.
I don’t usually need to be shown something more than once; there are a lot of onces in the months ahead.
This is what I signed up for. Today, I love it.