When my Father, Sister, and I were caught in a traffic jam in the Dominican Republic, the last thing I would have thought was starting this jam would be a riot. I was convinced that it was a farmer herding his cows until I heard gunshots. Then we watched the police run to their cars to flee the massive crowd blocking the middle of the highway. Thats when I knew it was a riot But first let me take a moment to talk about how strange it was to be seeing all of this under the dreamlike influence of insomnia.
Many medical websites say that a lack of sleep affects your mental state, particularly mental stamina, which essentially means that not sleeping makes you a little stupid. So I guess I was feeling a little stupid when we drove up to this riot, as most people would tell you that it would be better to stop the car before reaching the riot. But that wasn’t the way it seemed.
For my parents and myself, it felt more like there was a hazy dreamlike quality to everything happening. Nothing felt entirely real. When we were driving towards the scene of a riot it felt almost natural, even a bit exciting like, “Oh how wonderful! We get to drive through a riot and see what is happening.” Yes, we were being stupid.
So there we were, the tropical sun shining over our heads and igniting the palm trees along the shore next to the highway into a vivid green canopy. My father was intently trying to navigate the confusing Dominican traffic, and my sister was somehow sleeping in the backseat in the in spite of the ridiculous heat. I was craning my head in shotgun, trying to see why traffic was stopping up ahead.
“There sure are a lot of people standing in the middle of the highway.” I said to my dad who was paying more attention to the hectic, weaving, honking traffic in our lane.
“Well hopefully they’ll move so this crazy traffic can clear up.” He said.
Then we heard the gunshots.
“My god!” said my dad, “Are those the police are running away?”
They were. Somehow, nothing else was said about the issue. We just watched the events happening through our windshield with a renewed sense of interest. It was almost cool.
Looking back on how everything seemed on little to no sleep, it felt more like we were watching everything happen on TV than in person. The cops literally fleeing the section of road we were about to drive through felt like a welcome plot twist to the story of our all inclusive resort vacation.
As the police drove away, the traffic began to move again. I guess the riot had gotten rid of the real traffic issue.
We inched forward into the crowd, our Fiat slowly becoming enveloped by the crowds and loud music of a party. People were moving between cars with bottles of rum in their hand. Most of them were smiling, as though the police being chased off was a big joke, and since I was under the stupid effects of insomnia, it kind of felt like a joke to me as well. Everything felt like a joke, even the concrete blocks being thrown over the highway.
In fact, I think one of the oddest sensations I have ever known is sitting in the front seat of that small Fiat with my father driving next to me, and my sister sleeping in the back, while thinking, “this is oddly beautiful, and fun.” as concrete blocks flew soundlessly over the car. At the time they reminded me of doves flying over our car, and smashing into the doors and windshields of the cars next to us.
Somehow, as though we drove through some sort of wormhole portal, we passed through the riot completely unscathed. None of the concrete blocks hit our car. We didn’t encounter any aggression. Not even an angry stare. Our journey simply took us from one end of blissful Dominican Paradise, through a riot, and back into the gorgeous palm tree dotted paradise that led us towards our 5 star resort. It was exactly like a dream.
The first morning of our trip took us from paradise, through a riot, and back to paradise in a matter of minutes. It was almost as though the rioting people didn’t exist, and everything was once again, just a tropical paradise.