Bored with your daily motorbike commute? Dana Filek-Gibson offers a way to spice up your already chaotic drive.
In Saigon, driving is a large part of my life. For at least an hour each day, I spend my time dodging people who text, do their makeup, window shop, or walk into traffic without looking. Despite the infinite possibilities for disaster, my safety record is pretty strong: rarely do I drive the wrong way down a street or forget to use the correct turn signal. I always wear a helmet, stop at red lights, and look both ways before passing through an intersection. Only on occasion do I find myself between a guardrail and a Saigon Bus, and generally it is as a result of someone else’s poor judgment. My greatest fault is that I sometimes close my eyes while driving — what with all the pollution in the air — but only for a second.
However, being an incredibly safe, occasionally blind driver in the big city is not as glamourous as it sounds. Now that I’m a seasoned expert in the rules of the road, there is no longer the terrifying, exhilarating adrenaline rush of a near-death experience incorporated into my daily commute. Of course, I have no desire to get myself into an accident, but with my attention span and the amount of time I spend on the road, there needs to be something more than just driving involved. Thus, I present to you a game I have invented to spice up the regular commute. For when you’re bored of traffic — or better yet, NOT driving — I encourage you to try Saigon Bingo, a game in which you earn points by spotting as many uniquely Saigon characters as you can, all within a single drive to work. Feel free to add your own individuals to the list below and remember to keep your eyes (sort of) on the road.
A Tourist (1 point)
Known for their mismatched style of dress and general confusion, these are some of the easiest targets to pick out. Anyone who appears lost, sweaty and sporting a non la with gym shorts is probably a safe bet. Tack on an extra point for a tourist you catch venturing outside of Districts 1, 3 or 5.
A Motorbike Narcoleptic (2 points)
If you’ve been in the city for any reasonable amount of time you can recall at least one occasion where you had to rouse a xe om driver from a snooze atop his motorbike. Add extra points for anyone who a) has their mouth open or b) is not a xe om driver but rather a regular person just taking a nap.
A Balloon Man (3 points)
People carry a lot of things on their motorbikes — pets, home furnishings, TVs, precious works of art — but what is easily the most impressive to me is the baggage of a balloon salesman. The sheer number of inflatable cartoon characters a person can shove onto the back of a Honda Dream is inspiring, never mind the fact that this individual is able to successfully navigate the bike through city traffic without popping a balloon. Double your points if he is carrying a full stock and is barely visible beneath that mountain of inflated Hello Kitty and Doraemon characters.
A Floral Ninja (2 points)
You are, of course, familiar with the many practical, floral-patterned ways that the women of Saigon combat the sun. While you may find any number of people who look dressed up for a bank robbery or some very strange version of a garden party, it is more difficult — though certainly not impossible — to find a woman covered head to toe, from the full-facial ninja mask to the hooded jacket, the over-the-leg apron and sunglasses. Should you come across this person during your morning commute, remember that she must have an assortment of floral prints in order to count in this category.
Beautiful Godzilla (2 points)
This is a phrase originally coined in an American cycling book I once read, but the Beautiful Godzilla exists in all areas of the driving world. When you’re playing this game during your daily commute, search for an exceptionally beautiful, well-dressed woman — someone whose appearance takes your breath away — and who is a HORRIBLE DRIVER. She puts on lipstick in her wing mirror. She talks on her cell phone. She makes a left-hand turn from the far right side of the road. And behind her, she leaves a trail of accidents in her wake. In a city of bad drivers, this person stands out as one of the greatest threats on the road. If you spot her, pass her, and live to tell the tale, consider yourself lucky, not only in this game but in life as well.