What kind of man am I? Without a vehicle for the first time in years, I am at the mercy of the operators of Cuenca’s buses and taxis. My wife, Belinda, and I are one year removed from the Monterey Bay area of California. Ah! Sunny California! Walks on the beach and rounds of golf were my favorite past times from our responsibilities as co-managers of one-bedroom apartments for two score souls. Here, on the other hand, walking is how we navigate the popular Andean city.
As retired expats living in Ecuador, we engage in a dance of spontaneity along urban thoroughfares. Pedestrian habits acquired in the U. S. are distinct impediments to personal safety. Being alert to cultural differences in driving patterns, road construction, and sidewalk conditions is imperative to making a successful transition on par with the acquisition of the foreign language.
Belinda and I live within a par five golf hole to Monte Sinai Hospital. The Ital Deli, also on Avenida Fray Solano, is a tee shot from our home, Condominio Santa Rosa. The living room window overlooks one-way Avenida Federico Proano, parallel to Solano. Stop signs at Moreno Mora and Diez de Agosto bracket our treeless stretch of Proano.
Recently on my way to “The Gringo Workshop,” an expat work space, I awaited the No. 15 city bus charging uphill from Solano to our stop on Diez de Agosto. It came to a screeching halt when a red SUV dashed in front, ignoring the stop sign.
This heedless driver narrowly passed in front of the bus. Imagine the discomfort which befell driver and passengers alike! Boarding the bus, I sensed grateful relief from its startled occupants as I rode a couple of kilometers to my shop.
A couple of months ago, a shop member wrecked his pickup equipped with his newly built roof rack, at an El Centro intersection. He explained to me, “It was my fault. I had passed a city bus pulled up at a stop, and didn’t see the car crossing in front.” The accident cracked his sternum and damaged the truck’s right front end. He had to repair the fender, wheel and rocker-arm assembly. Thankfully, he fully recovered and is back to driving his truck again.
While I built furniture at the shop, Belinda witnessed from our fifth floor vantage point, the aftermath of screeching brakes and colliding autos. A clueless driver had failed to observe the red stop sign on the corner. Families at home to observe the Sabbath opened windows and gates to take in the scene of jumbled metal and white steam. Neighbors lined the street to witness the arrival of tow trucks and police and to watch justice being delivered.
A more serious accident occurred in similar circumstances within a month. That one resulted in bodily harm and the prompt arrival of an ambulance. “There were over thirty people watching, and some helped to push one of the wrecks into a driveway behind a wall,” Belinda told me. “And it’s the lawyer’s office parking lot!”
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