Judgment

I did an incredibly stupid thing for an incredibly stupid reason.

I was at a point in my life when I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I was restless and distracted and not finding joy in anything. I went to see a terrible movie called Torque, a rip-off of the also-terrible, but far more successful The Fast and The Furious, with motorcycles in place of cars.

The protagonist of the movie is returning to a group of cycling enthusiasts after several years’ absence and several times in the movie, someone asks where he has been, and he always answers, “I spent six months cycling around Indochina.” After about the fourth time he said that, I said aloud, right there in the theater, “That’s what I should do.”

I am sure the lawyers for the production company that made the movie worried about imitative behavior – kids and teens and drunks who watch stupid movies and then imitate what they see – but they probably thought more in terms of the demonstrable deadly behavior featured in the movie. Jumping a motorcycle on to a moving train, jumping a motorcycle off of a moving train, setting a gas station on fire, that sort of thing. That a man in his forties might decide to take a random tag-line to heart was something that never occurred to them.

Keep in mind, at the time, I knew almost nothing about Southeast Asia. I didn’t speak any of the local languages. I barely knew how to ride a motorcycle, and that part of the world is famous for its punishing and relentless traffic.

I talked about my idea with a friend who had spent some time in Vietnam. She told me, “You’re going to die out there.” I decided right then not to talk about the idea with anyone else.

I did borrow a motorcycle from a coworker and spent half an hour “practicing” in the company parking lot.

When I landed in Saigon, I hired a guide, Hoa, to show me around the city and find a bike I could rent. I explained my plan to Hoa.

“You’re going to die out there,” he told me.

Ah, well. Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes only from bad judgment.

I did an incredibly stupid thing for an incredibly stupid reason, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

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