It’s 8.22am. The clock that tells me this switches to its temperature function. 34 degrees Celsius. It will be cooler over the next couple of weeks, but right now I can feel the sweat running down my back.
I flip up my visor to get some air as the light ticks down from red to green. 89, 88, 87…
I’ve already been sitting at this junction for about 90 seconds, to my left, on Xinhai Rd. Taipei’s Road rules demand that if you are a scooter and you want to turn left on a main road, you must first turn right and wait for the lights to change again.
When my teacher told me about the rule where you turn right to go left I thought it was a joke. Now I understand what my friend meant when he said, “Taipei’s roads have a chaotic order of their own.”
Other scooters join the pack. Everyone is coming from a different place, uniting for a brief moment before we journey onwards. 58, 57, 56…
People jostle, trying to squeeze their scooters into the small spaces that are left. Exhaust fumes hang lazily in the humid air, mingling with cigarette smoke and early morning food smells.
Some people wear little masks over their mouths to try and cut out some of the fumes. Others brave the heat and keep their visors down. 35, 34, 33…
Right at the front of the pack are the tanned manual labourers. This is mostly where the cigarette smoke is coming from. They take a quick drag as they anticipate the changing of the lights.
To me they are ‘crazy frog’ look a likes, in their World War One style helmets, atop their humming scooters. Some have paint flecked clothing. Others have strapped ladders or gas bottles to the back of their scooters.
10, 9, 8… The crowd of scooters hum as their drivers rev in anticipation of the green light.
Sometimes the people at the front anticipate exactly when the light will change, even when there is no timer. Sometimes they misjudge and end up stuck beyond the point of no return, waiting.
The traffic policeman waves as the timer hits one… and we’re off. Crazy frogs first, of course.