I must admit a huge weakness of mine.
I don’t like to tell people that I can’t do something new. I’d rather give something a go, fail miserably, then and ONLY THEN tell people that maybe this isn’t the thing for me. Pride can be a terrible and dangerous thing.
So, when Billy asked me if I’d like to map a Quad-Bike course with him, of course I said yes, immediately.
In my head I wondered a number of things. I wondered if he meant the Royal We, where I would listen to him speak at length about the toils and setbacks of the Costa Rican countryside while we poured over a map at a table with a cup of tea and pencil a route in theory. I wondered if he meant to ride one Quad with me on the back hugging him for dear life, with me providing a running commentary. Or, maybe he wanted me to have a Quad-Bike of my own to ride with him on a proposed route. Eep! to the latter. I both hoped, and hoped not at the same time… oh, the dangerous responsibility… PLEASE! let it be the latter, I wished.
‘All right,’ says he… ‘grab a key!’
The excited panic slowly roiled in my belly. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that it was shamefully over twenty years since I’d even looked at one of these things. I remembered someone telling me that Bono’s wife had been here just a while ago and scuppered herself slightly in a Quad Bike adventure. I wondered if I’d be of any use to my children dead, and sauntered casually away until Billy couldn’t see me any more.
See, large vehicles are no problem to me. I love driving. I’ve driven large cars, both manual and automatic, I’ve driven vans… hell I’ve even flown an aeroplane once. The bigger the vehicle, the more secure it feels. Give me something small like a moped or a quad-bike however, and I crap myself. They’re too flimsy, too jerky, and their controls are altogether too spurious and unpredictable.
I ran with teenaged animation to the table which displayed an array of keys numbered from 1 to 20. Number 9 was missing. I chose Key 13, just for the craic of it. I don’t like inanimate objects to feel left out.
I found quad-bike number 13. It was RED. They all were, but mine seemed more RED than most.
Billy nodded me a rather masculine nod, then sped away. I asked God to bless his optimism.
HOW TO RIDE A QUAD BIKE (ONE WHICH IS NOT AUTOMATIC BUT HAS NO CLUTCH – COMMENT BELOW IF YOU’RE AN EXPERT AT THIS LARK BECAUSE I SURE AS HELL AM NOT):
Step 1: Insert key into ignition. Congratulate yourself for finding the key-slot.
Step 2: Find your left hand.
Step 3: Congratulate yourself on finding your left hand and remind yourself to calm down, that this could possibly be just a dream.
Step 4: Find the clutch. Realise that there is no clutch. Be bummed out by the fact that there is no clutch, and panic. Find two buttons at your left hand and find that by pressing the lower button, you can shift down to Neutral. Celebrate your cleverness by turning on the engine. Let your thighs enjoy the throb of the engine and be scared, be very scared.
Step 5: Shift upwards with left hand to first gear, and with your right hand’s thumb, press gently on tiny lever.
Step 6: Enjoy whiplash.
Step 7: Realise that it’s probably ok to start these damn things in third gear.
Step 8: Find brakes, but remember that they are for pussies.
I zoomed after Billy after a few minutes of figuring the above out, and began a dirt-path of rocks and stones and dust. I knew where my leader was despite numerous turns and forks by the plumes he’d left behind and caught up with him quickly enough, and my neck was pretty sore by then… Quads are not friends of the cervical spine.
He led me to a beach with flat sand and petrified wood. We zoomed and dodged and accelerated at stupid rates to 80kmph… the dangerousness of these machines amazed me and I wondered if they weren’t entirely safe for teenagers but then again, that was sort of the point of the documentary. We slowed down all too soon, and climbed out of the beach and into cowboy country.
To this day I can’t figure out why their ears need to be so big, then I wondered if these aren’t in fact their eyes… very very sad eyes. (Image courtesy of maxwaugh.com)
Groups of ancient people smiled toothless smiles at us and every stranger waved. The sense of well-being was alive. This is a good country to live in, your odds are good here and the freshness of every living thing shamed our exhaust fumes and cursed their modern-day interruption. We smiled apologetic smiles and down-shifted out of courteousness.
We stopped at a shack with a dusty Pepsi sign outside and asked if it would be okay for a bunch of teenagers to pop by the following day with a film crew. They seemed more than happy, they seemed to hold themselves back with enthusiasm which made me feel sad about the possibility that perhaps our crew wouldn’t make it this far the next day. I feared we’d lost the run of ourselves, that we’d overestimated the journey through which our teenagers could stand in this heat, with those gears, and the danger of it all. I as a mother feared that I was failing them, felt that my enthusiasm could possibly kill them. A toddler spoke English to me and overwhelmed me. Her mother smiled proudly, and I was homesick again.
It was at this point I realised that I had no idea how to reverse and thus embarrassed myself in front of several Spanish strangers while I got my act together.
We turned around and went home over the mountains.
There were seas of green below, billions of leaves and crickets chirping, the humidity had died down by now so the dust was clinging to the drying drips of sweat on my skin and I saw the sea with envy, never wanting to swim so much. The sun set to our right as we climbed and dipped, finally bringing us home.
Billy went for a shower and recommended that I did the same. I should have, but I didn’t.
And then I got into trouble for getting carried-away.
I’ll leave that up to your imagination I think, for the truth is always far stranger and I think some things are better confined to the special room in my brain’s reference library that is my cringing memory whose bolts are far stronger than your curiosity could ever be.