Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Avenida Artigas

Every working day I am navigated down Avenida Artigas--Artigas Avenue--to work at Universidad Catolica. I say navigated down because it is more like a swiftly flowing river than it is a street. It is a divided highway with a median down the center, but the pavement on either side has no line down the middle. The traffic itself, like a living entity, is left to decide how many lanes there truly are.

There is room for one generous lane, but most of the time it functions as two, and, upon need and need is frequent, three. Using "lane" as a word is misleading; "currents" is better. The currents flow, speeding up and slowing down, with the occasionaly eddie to mix them up. Frenquently, a bus will intrude into a lane like a large tree being pulled into the flood of an engourged river. Just as the flood waters build up behind the tree to push it aside, traffic builds up until the bus is pushed onward.

There are driving techniques practiced as a matter of routine on Artigas, and indeed on every street in Asuncion, that would result in a shooting in Los Angeles with the shooter acquitted. There are practices performed by the second that would result in the middle finger of the most impotent Kansas driver becoming erect.

But it is not just the driving on Artigas. There are the people. The first kind are the ones crossing the street. Only fools cross at the crosswalk where you are blind to the traffic coming up the street behind you. You cross in the middle of the street if you can. The best time is when the street is full of stopped traffic when you can squeeze yourself between the cars. Other times, you run toward the median, catch your breath, and the run to the other side.

The other kind of people are those doing business from the median. The could be selling bags of fruit, bottles of cooking oil, or chipa, a donut-shaped bread made of yucca-flour, from baskets balanced on the top of the sellers head. Artigas is the ultimate convenience store.

Having ridden on Rio Artigas, I can understand the connection between riverboats and gambling. There is a thrill associated with the motion somehow, but one Rio Artigas, with trucks and taxis and buses and cars and pedestrians and bicycles and motor cycles, the stakes are not just your money. They are your life.

3 comments:

Janet said...

Excellent analogy. How dull our lives are in El Norte and now much they are enlivened by our southern neighbors.

Alice said...

In PY driving laws are merely suggestions. I always sit in the back seat behind someone larger then I do not have to see the traffic!

Bobby Winters said...

Alice,
Love your solution, but as I am always the largest one in the car, that is not an option for me. ;)

Bobby