Now, I understand, the fearful objects running about Bermuda like so many wild hogs are motor scooters.
Only a Shakespearean fool would ride a scooter on a tiny island that is teeming with tourists who are likewise riding such conveyances for the first time; a tiny island that is overrun by Americans who are not accustomed to motoring on the left side of the road; a tiny island that is full of narrow, winding roads lined by stone walls and dotted with treacherous traffic circles...a tiny island, only 21 miles long, where accidents are bound to happen.
All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement Inhabits here.
—The Tempest (Act V, Scene 1)
TORMENT AND TROUBLE
It is a typical taxi-driver-to-tourist conversation, meandering from "Where you from?" to "First time on the island?" to "On business?" as the minivan snakes along the narrow roads of Bermuda during the 20-minute drive from the airport to the Elbow Beach Hotel. As soon as I tell the cabbie about my assignment, he abruptly changes the subject, dropping talk of Bermuda's pastel houses, its tranquil aquamarine waters, its British roots and the warmth of its people. Now he is spinning bone-chilling tales about traffic accidents, the sort of stories that the tow-truck drivers who service the Autobahn must tell, each account—"Then the bike slid under the taxi, and the axle..."—more ghastly than the last. Who gave Stephen King license to drive Christine around Bermuda, I want to know?
"Please be careful, luv," the driver pleads, addressing my reflection in his rearview mirror, a visage suddenly a shade paler. As the minivan approaches my hotel, the cabbie points out a bend in the road and tells a cautionary tale. Soon after dropping off two honeymooners at the hotel recently, he saw the couple tangled in a wreck on the side of the road.
"She was a beautiful girl, about your age," he says, shaking his head. "It's a shame she lost all her teeth."
I can ignore torment from friends, but hearing horror stories from the Bermuda locals is unnerving, to say the least. "Are you planning to wear those sandals?" asks Dolores Thomas, who runs the Elbow Beach Cycle Livery and is known as Mrs. T. "One man wearing sandals last week accelerated straight into a truck, and his toe went one way and the rest of his foot another. Oooh, I had a face ache for a week."
Mrs. T puts the scooter-rental contract in front of me. "Read and sign, thank you," she says. Upon close inspection, I learn, "This document...excludes all liability on the part of the hirer for any loss or damage that the rider may suffer cither as a consequence of any action or any act or omission of the hirer, blah, blah, blah...."
Legal jargon aside, the terms I agree to are thus: If I end up a hood ornament on one of the public buses, I pay the bill. If I am given a cycle with faulty brakes and I accidentally run over, say, a toy poodle, I pay the bill. If my instructor tells me, "You don't need a helmet. This ain't no livery for the lily-livered," and I return home with a pavement-induced lobotomy, I pay the bill.