The siren of one ambulance
can destroy Samaritan attitudes
in a whole Chilean town,
so says Ivan Illich.
He could see where Illich was coming from
and wanted to be there too.
He was a passenger and knew next to nothing
of cars except sit tight and hold on around corners.
He was musing upon the perfection of maps
and measuring progress in inches and hours
when a swerve to miss a reckless cat
sent calculations flying off
at improbable angles.
He heard the ring of a thousand bells
and dreamt the longest kiss of his life.
He wondered which Chilean town was that
or did the contention hold good for all?
Had Ivan Illich witnessed
a general shrug of the shoulders?
Did the lapsed Samaritans cross to the other side
of the road more carefully than that cat?
Such questions made him dizzy and sick,
then he remembered Illich
also said something like this:
If you add the time spent working to earn
the money to buy the automobile
to the time spent in the automobile
(including the traffic jams, of course)
to the time spent in the hospital
that followed the automobile crash
to the time spent discovering oil
to fuel every automobile
and divide it into the number of miles
driven in a single year
then the speed of each automobile
is just 3.7 miles per hour.
A light shone in his eyes
and people asked his name.
At this rate he would never reach South America.